Luxury Institute News

May 24, 2016

NYC’s New Cadillac House is More than a Brand-Experience Experiment

It’s an incubator for what the brick-and-mortar economy does that the internet can’t.
The Drive
By: Brett Berk
May 24, 2016

Accompanied by the kind of fanfare usually reserved for a visiting R&B star—champagne, models, exclusive parties, and the launching of helicopters over the Hudson—Cadillac opened a New York headquarters late last year. Mostly used to house its communications departments, the grand offices on the top two floors of a West SoHo tower are meant to imbue the rejuvenated Detroit luxury brand with the trendy vitality of New York City, as well as the cosmopolitan east coast talent that lives here.

“We have great product. Our challenge is relevance,” says Melody Lee, Cadillac’s brand manager, as we walk the halls of the space. Those halls are lined in chevron-embossed leather meant to evoke, but also update, the marque’s vehicular heritage. According to Lee, consumers have a false familiarity with Cadillac; the brand may have positive and luxurious connotations, but they’re dated. “In order to change perceptions, we need to build connections between Cadillac and current luxury consumers’ interests,” she says.

The brand is taking an almost Mormon approach to this conversion mission, seeking not only new audiences, but new partners in the far-flung worlds of fashion, art, food, and culture. But in order to truly fortify a new identity, a contemporary brand must build a fort—a temple that embodies these projections, a dream board made real. Red Bull has its Studios, filled with extreme video and other disruptive lifestyle bullshit. Apple has its Apple Stores, filled with austerity and smugly superior Geniuses. Mars has M&M’s World, filled with candy colored candy and pre-diabetic tourists.

Into this fray Cadillac has opened Cadillac House, a showroom—but not sales room—for contemporary and vintage automobiles, as well as an art gallery, a retail fashion incubator, a coffee bar, and an event space on the corner of Charlton and Hudson. If Cadillac had an actual brand Ambassador, this would be her Embassy.

“We want to bring people into the Cadillac world. Our interpretation of what luxury means to us, which is warm, inviting, funky, and emotional, not austere,” says Eneuri Acosta from Cadillac’s department for lifestyle-, influencer-, and partnership communications.

The space, designed by the San Francisco architecture and design firm Gensler, reflects these notions, with surprisingly human materials like pebbled leather, cork, jute, and wool, along with an audacious use of neon and mirrors. Reclaimed wood, Edison bulbs, and polished concrete are the familiar icing on this cupcake, but the space still manages to transcend the de rigueur global upscale urban style I like to call “unique sameness.”

I live around the corner, so I look forward to visititing—Cadillac House will be open to the public daily—to drink Joe’s coffee, attend lectures and openings, and maintain my aversion to recherché loungewear. But does any of this brand experience misheggas move the needle with actual luxury consumers?

“It’s interesting because it’s very commonplace for brands to think that if they just create a place to hang out, that people are going to hang out. And I think that’s a little naïve,” says Milton Pedraza, head of premium sector research and consulting firm The Luxury Institute. “I think it’s probably not going to do anything significant for the brand.”

If this is the case, then why do so many luxury makes chart this flashy retail route? “Well, I think there are two fundamental reasons,” Pedraza says. “First, because brands and their agencies mistake gimmicks for effective action. And second because the really hard thing to do—to create a brand experience—are beyond their imagination.”

According to Pedraza and his surveys of luxury consumers, the enlightened path to retail engagement requires the imbuing of three characteristics: empathy, trustworthiness, and generosity. “People want to make personal, emotional connections,” Pedraza says. The difficulties that luxe brands have in this sphere comes mainly from failing to adopt a brand culture—and retail employee training program—that privileges these interactions. “They don’t know how to scale the humanity of their associates,” Pedraza says.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, all of this is more, not less, important given the ubiquity of online shopping. According to Pedraza’s research, 80 percent of luxury consumers do significant virtual Internet research prior to entering a store. They come into the store looking for more than what they can find online. “I don’t expect you to be my hotel concierge and make reservations for me at a restaurant. I mean, it’s nice, but that’s not the expectations I have when I enter an apparel, or a watch, or a jewelry shop,” Pedraza says. “I expect them to be experts on what they sell, and the competition, so that they can inform me more than I would inform myself with my friends, my peers, and going online. I don’t need that again. I need more information, or better information. Or affirmation.”

John Bricker, creative director at Gensler and lead on the Cadillac House project, concurs. “Product is product,” he says as he gives me a tour. “The reason people go to a bricks and mortar space is about experience. I can buy just about everything I need online.”

Just about everything, of course, except a car. Due to of our anachronistic, if purposeful, automotive retail system, in most places you can’t just click over to Cadillac.com and purchase a new CT6, as much as you might like to. You have to go to a dealership. Herein lies the big discovery of my visit to Cadillac House.

Cadillac has very publicly announced an emphasis on improving its retail experience—the last mile in the brand’s $12 billion investment in product and positioning, but the first point of contact for consumers. To this end, Caddy will be requiring its 900 dealers to make significant capital improvements in facilities, technology, and training. (In exchange, it will offer upgraded incentives, compensation, and profit sharing.) Certainly this new NYC space is about showcasing aspirational and urbane partnerships. But in addition to being an incubator for a hipper Cadillac brand, it’s also an incubator for the real world physicality of Cadillac’s new retail outlets.

When I ask about this directly, Melody Lee confirms my hypothesis. “Experimentation here will find its way into our facilities, our next generation dealerships,” she says. “That could include things like design and mood and layout, but also technologies like holographic imaging, which we’re working on.”

All of this is further borne out when I enter the small conference room behind Cadillac House’s main showroom. Here, attractive and elegant New York-based product specialists are being trained to offer Cadillac House visitors information on the XT5, CT6, CTS-V, and other new Cadillacs that will line this new showroom.

“The one thing that a computer can’t do, that coffee can’t do, that freebies can’t do, is have great people that are engaging you in a relevant experience within the context of what you sell,” says Pedraza. If Cadillac’s broad plans are to come to fruition, Pedraza-style, these brand-imbued specialists will need to fan out across the country, conducting trainings, and replicating themselves in hundreds of newly renovated dealerships—all of which will resemble Cadillac House, at least in tone. Their practiced scripts and gestures, with an air of New York sophistication, and emotion, will become the human face of a changing brand, on the road to changing minds.

Source: http://www.thedrive.com/travel/3651/nycs-new-cadillac-house-is-more-than-a-brand-experience-experiment

May 5, 2016

Denver’s Inspirato booming as interest in luxury destination clubs grow

Inspirato, a Denver-based luxury destination club, plans to hire its 500th employee by year’s end.
The Denver Post
By: Emilie Rusch
May 5, 2016

Inspirato, a Denver-based destination club that caters to luxury travelers, is in the midst of a major growth spurt, set to reach 500 employees by year’s end and more than double its office footprint in Lower Downtown.

Launched in 2011 by Exclusive Resorts co-founder Brent Handler, Inspirato now counts more than 12,000 members taking advantage of its private network of multimillion-dollar vacation homes, travel experiences and special relationships with upscale hotels worldwide. Initiation fees for the club start at $7,500, with monthly dues of $325. Members then pay per night for accommodations they book.

“The reason we came up with the company is because we knew there was a really large market of people who were looking for a better way to vacation in a safe manner, for options in homes, hotels and experiences, all with an adviser to help them put it all together,” Handler said. “We’re continuing to grow very aggressively in terms of selling memberships, revenue and employees.”

That growth has meant adding jobs and square footage to its Denver headquarters.

Since the beginning of the year, Inspirato has increased its workforce by 66 employees, bringing the total to 428. Plans call for the company to reach 500 workers by the end of 2016.

To house that growth, Inspirato has signed a lease for three floors of the  historic Sugar Building, located at 16th and Wazee streets.

Once renovations are complete later this year, the addition will bring the company’s total footprint to about 68,000 square feet, making the travel company one of the largest office tenants in LoDo.

The company will continue to occupy all 36,000 square feet of the historic  Peters Paper Co. Warehouse building at 1637 Wazee St., less than a block away.

Handler said while it might have been more efficient to move the entire operation into a larger, more traditional office building, the company never seriously considered leaving LoDo.

“We knew early on that would mean a campus. Frankly, this building won’t be enough for our growth plans, either,” Handler said. “We plan on being a long-term part of the community in this small sector of LoDo.”

Since the beginning of the year, Inspirato has increased its workforce by 66 employees, bringing the total to 428.

Since the beginning of the year, Inspirato has increased its workforce by 66 employees, bringing the total to 428.

Beyond any emotional attachment to the area, though, Inspirato is also betting on the recruiting advantage that being in LoDo provides, he said. Most of the new positions will be in tech, sales and what the company calls “travel advisers,” employees who work directly with club members to plan vacations.

“We’re hiring just out of college — or a few years out of college — smart, motivated employees, and they do not want to work in the Tech Center,” Handler said. “They want to work at the center of the action.”

Nationwide, the “shared economy model” has been experiencing a resurgence in recent years in the luxury travel world, said Milton Pedraza, CEO of New York-based research firm Luxury Institute.

“The idea is popular because who wouldn’t want multiple home availability at the right time, with a great concierge and pay a fraction of the cost?” Pedraza said. 

“But it’s how you actually deliver that promise that really matters,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of players go down. They think they’re in the business of selling memberships, but they’re really not.”

Inspirato’s model “really hits the sweet spot of where the consumer is going,” said Richard Ragatz, president of Ragatz Associates, an Oregon-based resort real estate industry consulting firm. “Inspirato is a very innovative, creative concept that’s doing very well.”

In 2015, the shared-ownership industry — which includes timeshare properties and destination clubs — booked $505 million in sales. Sixty-two percent of that came from destination clubs, such as Inspirato, according to a  report from Ragatz Associates.

Inspirato has distinguished itself from other timeshare and destination-club players with its lower cost of entry and no long-term commitment, he said. Younger travelers, in particular, like the variety, convenience and flexibility the clubs can offer.

“Millennials are much less enthusiastic about purchasing real estate with a deed in perpetuity, and they don’t want all the burdens that go along with ownership,” Ragatz said. “They don’t want to put all their discretionary income into one home.”

Unlike many of its competitors, Inspirato operates the vacation residences through long-term lease arrangements, instead of purchasing them. This allows the company to avoid the six-figure initiation fees that some other clubs charge.

“We essentially tried to take the best parts of renting a vacation home, which was becoming popular with  Airbnb and HomeAway and VRBO,” Handler said. “We came up with a concept where we could have a club structure — people pay a fee to join, but then they get these homes taken care of as if you were in a hotel. They’re fully serviced, there’s housekeeping, there’s a concierge.”

As far as their new offices in the Sugar Building, plans call for exposing as much of the original 1906 structure as possible, said Mark Sheldon, Inspirato’s vice president of asset operations.

Work on the three floors will be done in phases and be completed by the end of the year.

“The first thing I did was tear out the walls,” Sheldon said. “Now, when you walk up into the space, instead of seeing hallways, you see every window.”

In a separate project, the design details of which were approved by the Lower Downtown Design Review Board late last year, the property owner plans to build a four-story addition with a glass facade where now a narrow parking lot sits behind the building on Wazee.

Inspirato will take three of the floors, with the ground floor serving as the travel company’s main entrance. The addition, expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2017, will increase Inspirato’s footprint by another 12,000 square feet.

“These commitments to the people and the places we occupy are all part and parcel to what we’re building here,” Sheldon said.

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_29851815/denvers-inspirato-booming-interest-luxury-destination-clubs-grow

April 21, 2016

The Future of Luxury Is Now, as Heritage Brands Meet New Demands

Robb Report
By: Booth Moore
April 19, 2016

The world’s most exclusive brands—many of which cling to tradition—are reshaping their long-standing practices to provide smarter, more immediate, more sustainable, and healthier products and services. Yet technological advances and innovative new business models are not the only forces driving the rapid evolution of the luxury marketplace. At the heart of these changes are dramatic shifts in the values, attitudes, priorities, and expectations of you—the consumer.

It was one of the most exclusive fashion shows of all time. When Tom Ford debuted his comeback women’s collection in September 2010, he invited only 100 people to watch Lauren Hutton, Julianne Moore, Daphne Guinness, Beyoncé, and his other famous muses model sexy python-print gowns and fringed coats on the runway. The event took place months before the clothes would arrive in stores, and no photographs were allowed.

When Ford introduces his latest fall/winter collection this September, by contrast, anyone will be able to view the pieces online, and those with sufficient means will be able to purchase items as soon as they come down the runway. This is part of a new see-now-buy-now approach that Ford is testing. Burberry, Diane von Furstenberg, and several other fashion brands have launched similar programs.

“In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea,” said Ford in a press release. “Our customers today want a collection that is immediately available.”

Ford’s about-face is telling. New technology, market trends, and changing social attitudes have brands and companies catering to customer demands in an unprecedented manner. Now you can acquire nearly any item (a new Zenith watch from Mr. Porter, for example) the same day or engage any service, even a private jet charter, immediately, with the swipe of a finger, and have practically anything customized to your preferences. Even so, we want more than that.

“People still buy luxury products,” says Claudia D’Arpizio, a partner at the management-consulting firm Bain & Company, which reports that the global luxury industry grew by 5 percent from 2014 to 2015 and surpassed $1 trillion in retail sales. “But they value the experience around them more than the products themselves, since the experience is more shareable.”

More of us, in other words, seek meaning from our means. “We have gone from ‘extra’ values to ‘intra’ values,” says Olivier Abtan, a partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group, another management-consulting firm. “That means spending good time, sustainability, health, and family.”

Thus, luxury could be a private meeting at the base of the Himalayas with an oracle ordained by the Dalai Lama, arranged by the travel company Cox & Kings; or waking up to sunrise yoga on the rooftop helipad of the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. It could be a Ralph Lauren necktie that warns you when your heart rate accelerates too rapidly, a Bentley whose interior is lined with a material made from non-animal protein leather, or your own mouse avatar, on which doctors can test cancer treatments to determine which would be most effective for you.

Technical Support

As Ford notes, you want immediate access to items, and digital platforms provide that. They also enable you to make informed purchases more easily and to engage conveniently with brands on a personal level. “Technology is a driver of shopping and customer experience,” says D’Arpizio.

According to Joshua Schulman, president of Bergdorf Goodman and NMG International at the Neiman Marcus Group, 75 percent of his company’s customers do research online before buying an item. Saks Fifth Avenue recently launched a service through which associates are available online around the clock, and they can curate personalized virtual boutiques for you on the company’s website.

E-commerce, once thought to be only for mass-market brands, is becoming critical to the luxury sector. “In the U.S., some fashion brands have 20 to 30 percent of their sales online,” says Abtan. He predicts that within the next year or two every luxury brand will be selling online, including such holdouts as Chanel and Harry Winston. Regardless of the nature of the purchase, it seems everyone enjoys the convenience of shopping online.

But as larger luxury brands proliferate on the web and open stores in every city, smaller boutique brands are filling a niche by providing individualized experiences and access. Human contact, when it’s on your terms, can be the height of luxury.

In February, just hours after his fall/winter-collection runway show in New York, the women’s-wear designer Joseph Altuzarra spent an entire afternoon at Bergdorf Goodman greeting clients as part of the store’s Right from the Runway initiative. He explained his inspiration for the collection (Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive), described the work involved in the soutache braided embroidery on the back of a coat, and offered suggestions on how to style different looks. One woman, who was visiting from Europe, planned to buy a green ombré tie-dyed dress from the collection. After chatting with the designer, she purchased several additional pieces. “Women love having a relationship with the product they buy, and part of that is having a relationship with the designer,” says Altuzarra. “Some designers are able to do that through digital and Instagram, but usually that’s a relationship with a younger, more aspirational client. At the price point we’re selling at, with $5,000 dresses, our customers are digitally aware, but they are not influenced by it. They are not on Instagram 24/7 looking at runway shows.”

At his showroom in Manhattan, jeweler James de Givenchy works with each of his clients to create a one-of-a-kind piece. The average wait time for completion is eight weeks, and no one complains. “We have 12 manufacturers downstairs, and we serve a small market of people who want to have things made especially for them,” de Givenchy says. “It’s the experience of meeting and discussing what their needs are.”

Have It Your Way

The travel industry also recognizes the value of individual attention. Companies understand that you want to personalize trips and experience your passions. This could mean attending a sold-out baseball game in Osaka, Japan, or shopping for a Ferrari at the automaker’s headquarters in Maranello, Italy, according to Scott Wiseman, president for the Americas at Cox & Kings. “It used to be that luxury had to do with being first to a new property or destination,” he says. “Now people want to be part of something instead of watching it.” Wiseman says his clients can overnight in a Maasai mud hut, for example, and learn something of the local culture.

Neil Jacobs, CEO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, sees a demand for nontraditional travel experiences from his company’s clients. “We never talk about exclusivity,” he says, “we talk about inclusivity.” He cites the appeal of the organic free-range chicken farm at the brand’s Yao Noi property in Thailand, where you can collect your own eggs for breakfast. “It’s about experience and community engagement,” says Jacobs. “Customers who are spending north of $1,000 a night want more than just good service and a great bed.”

Community engagement can extend to guest rooms. Gone is cookie-cutter hotel design: “People are preoccupied with the personality of spaces,” says Ian Carr, co-CEO of the hospitality and residential design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates. “They don’t want generic or transient. They want curated, personal, locally connected.”

Hospitality companies also recognize guests’ desires for seamless service and freedom from awkward, time-consuming social interactions. Technology can help address those demands. “More and more, people don’t want to talk to anyone,” says Herve Humler, president and COO of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which has a GPS-enabled service in the works. It is expected to allow guests at the brand’s resorts to use their mobile devices to order lunch from the beach, for example, and have a server locate their chaise longue on the sand.

Sustainable Efforts

That lunch likely will not arrive in Styrofoam, and it could well include meat from animals that have been responsibly raised or produce that has been sustainably farmed. Cited in 2010 by the Harvard Business Review as a corporate mega-trend that would rival the impacts of mass production and electrification, sustainability is making its way into the luxury world. The luxury-industry conglomerate Kering’s first Environmental Profit and Loss report, published last year, set targets for reducing emissions and waste from its production and supply chain. Jewelry brands Chopard and Tiffany & Co. have begun using ethically mined gems and recycling gold, silver, and platinum, because an increasing number of customers demanded that they do so.

In the luxury-auto market, the SUV, with its relatively low mileage rating, has remained popular enough for Jaguar, Maserati, and Bentley to launch, or prepare to launch, their first models. However, according to a March report by Donatas Bimba of the market-research firm Euromonitor International, sales of plug-in electric vehicles are set to bounce back in 2016 and record solid growth from 2017 onward thanks to upgraded models and improved charging infrastructure. Bimba cited plug-in hybrid vehicles as “the most dynamic new car segment in the U.S.” and pointed to the BMW i8 and Mercedes-Benz S500e. He also noted the potential impact of the Model X all-electric SUV from Tesla, which is aiming to woo customers away from their Porsche Cayennes and Range Rovers.

“The electrification of the drivetrain is not a temporary phenomenon; it is the future of mobility,” says Gorden Wagener, the chief designer at Mercedes-Benz, which has plans to offer 10 plug-in hybrid models by 2017 and recently announced a new policy requiring top managers to drive electrified, as opposed to gas-powered, company cars.

In addition to offering more environmentally friendly models, luxury carmakers may begin adding sustainable materials to their vehicles’ cabins. “People on the top level of society—our customers—sooner or later won’t order a Bentley with 20 hides, because as a, say, vegan person, they will not accept it,” says Stefan Sielaff, director of design for Bentley Motors. “On the other side, they are not going to accept artificial leather, because it is oil based, so you really have to start experimenting with alternative, organic materials, such as textiles made of animal-free protein leather, silks, even stone.” Bentley is already offering stone veneers, made of rocks sourced from quarries in India, in its Mulsanne models.

The transition to autonomous-driving vehicles could have an even more profound effect on car design. “Maybe in the future, the car is a sitting room, a living room, a conference room, and you use the time in the car in a different way,” says Sielaff. “It becomes like sitting in first class of an aircraft.”

In BMW’s Vision Next 100 self-driving concept car, the steering wheel and center console retract so that the driver and front-seat passenger can turn toward each other. Another autonomous-driving vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz F 015 research car, is described as a “luxury lounge,” with chairs that can rotate to form a club-style seating arrangement.

The Balance Equation

Our own health is as important to many of us as the planet’s, and fashion and hospitality brands, along with hospitals and medical practices, are responding accordingly. Fashion labels are designing their own Fitbit devices (Tory Burch), activewear (Zegna), and connected clothing. Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech shirt works with an iPhone or Apple Watch to put real-time workout data in your hand. A smart suit or necktie that could advise the wearer on heart rate and body temperature may not be far off. “Living a luxury lifestyle isn’t just the dream of having a better life,” says David Lauren, executive vice president of global advertising, marketing, and communications at Ralph Lauren. “It’s also how technology can help you live a healthier, better life now.”

The country’s leading hospitals have long offered executive health programs that work with patients on preventive health care, nutrition, and stress management. The programs were initiated in the 1960s to protect C-level managers and board members considered valuable assets by corporations. “But now, the real growth segment has been in individuals motivated toward this kind of health-care surveillance,” says Dr. Benjamin Ansell, the director of UCLA’s Executive Health Program, which provides personalized, in-depth evaluations. Private practices offer similar programs.

Craig Venter, one of the first people to map the human genome, offers an executive physical at his latest venture, the La Jolla, Calif.–based Human Longevity. For $25,000, the company will sequence your DNA and run a full complement of tests to determine your risk for heart disease, melanoma, dementia, and other ailments. “Having the ability to control health and life outcomes is the ultimate luxury,” he says. (Some experts argue that genome sequencing alone may not be sufficient to detect health risks, and that further research is needed.)

Venter’s company is focused on advanced preventive care; others provide exclusive treatments. Champions Oncology is among the companies offering a mouse avatar to cancer patients. For a price starting at $10,000, Champions will remove a portion of the patient’s tumor, inject it into the mouse, and have the animal undergo different treatments to determine which will work best for the patient. (Doctors disagree on the efficacy of such practices when compared to human clinical trials.)

In the hospitality realm, hotels and resorts are providing health and wellness services that go far beyond facials and massages. The comforts of home on the road now include nutritious foods, fully equipped workout facilities, yoga, and spin classes. “It’s a luxury to have normalcy when you travel,” says Michael Newcombe, general manager for the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. He oversees all 38 Four Seasons spas in the Americas and has partnered on services with local fitness professionals, dermatologists, and medical providers.

Health retreats offer increasingly sophisticated medical services, such as Alzheimer’s prevention through cognitive stimulation, sleep recovery programs, and couples counseling. “The old-fashioned notion of going to a health spa involves weight loss and plastic surgery,” says Alejandro Bataller, a vice president at the SHA Wellness Clinic near Alicante, Spain. “But now, it’s so much more.” The SHA experience includes classes at the clinic’s health academy, where visitors learn how to manage stress and cook healthy meals. And Bataller is working with a Spanish university to develop an app that will keep track of guests’ progress after they leave. “We are going to be able to support you through technology wherever you are,” he says.

But for all the ways luxury companies are employing new technologies to meet your demands and enhance your life—providing instant access to the latest fashions or seamless service at resorts and hotels or cutting-edge wellness programs—their ability to forge relationships with you and other clients may ultimately determine whether they succeed or fail, says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a research organization in New York. “What wealthy people want is empathy, trustworthiness, the emotional elements of humanity,” he says. “It’s not a points program or Champagne when you walk in the store that matters. It’s doing little things that mean so much more.”

Accordingly, Pedraza says, the luxury industry is paying particular attention to women, and not just with marketing initiatives such as Bergdorf Goodman’s Right from the Runway. “[Women’s growing influence] is a big trend in luxury,” he says, citing Gucci’s Chime for Change charity campaign, supporting girls around the globe, and the LVMH-owned Champagne house Veuve Clicquot’s Business Woman Award as strategic outreach programs.

“Women have the say and the money,” he observes, “and we will see that grow as more millennial women get into higher levels of corporations. How will it manifest itself? Maybe a nicer world.”

Certainly that would be the most welcome change of all.

Source: http://robbreport.com/sports-leisure/future-luxury-now-heritage-brands-meet-new-demands#sthash.dNjDZXhF.dpuf

April 12, 2016

Travel Professionals Identify 15 Luxury Travel Trends For 2016 And Beyond

Travel Market
By: Harvey Chipkin
April 12, 2017

Luxury travel buzzwords like authentic, local, curate, and, of course, experience may be overused, but they have become buzzwords because of their phenomenal staying power. While some trends fade with time, some just seem to resound with customers from one year into the next. Here’s how a group of luxury travel professionals and other experts see the trends shaping up at the high end of the market for the rest of this year and into the next.

1. Doubling down on local
“Travelers want to be with locals,” said Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations in New York. “They want to be immersed in a destination. Instead of guides who know a lot of facts, they want insiders who can really give them the lowdown. Or they want a nightlife host who can take them to the coolest bars and nightspots and tell the story from their own perspective.”

At The Nines Hotel in Portland, OR, director of sales and marketing Laura Van Daal said, “Everyone in the hotel is a concierge and a local expert. They are trained to listen to the specifics of what a guest likes or is looking for, because everyone wants a different experience. We have contacts all over the city, so we can get to visit the rare books department of Powell’s Books, or we can get people into the Nike or Adidas employee store where they can get great discounts.”

Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, said, “It’s not just about getting a table at the best restaurant, but it might be getting the right table. There’s a popular restaurant in Paris where all the tourists are on the second floor and the locals are on the first floor. If an agent knows a concierge, he might be able to get the client to a first-floor table.”

2. Authentic, but maybe not too authentic
Authenticity can be taken too literally. Said Ezon, “You really have to be clear with clients about what they’re getting. When they say they want a ‘sense of place,’ that really means they want to be in a hotel they can use as a springboard from which to see their surroundings. If guests get to a ranch and there’s no air conditioning, they might not be happy.”

3. Personalization: It’s the little things that count
Personalization doesn’t have to be a big deal. Ezon said he had a couple going to Africa for a honeymoon. After a long week of travel, they arrived at their camp and entered their tent to find pictures of their family on the “walls” and their wedding song playing. “They couldn’t believe it,” said Ezon. “It’s the agent’s job to provide that kind of information to the people on the ground.”

Matteo Della Grazia, owner of tour operator Fuoritinerario — Discover Your Italy, said, “We are seeing increasing demand for local and authentic experiences that allow clients to create their own local product. For instance, they can work for a day at a top Tuscany vineyard with a wine- maker to create a personalized wine, which will then be aged, bottled, and shipped to them. We call it Adopt A Barrel. We have a similar program for perfume.”

4. Hip at the high end
Hotels brands like Ace prove that travelers will spend more to be around people and things they perceive as hip. Still, said Van Daal, while “hip and real luxury can go hand in hand, being hip is not enough. You still need great service to truly be luxury.”

5. Whimsical wandering
It may be a generational thing but there are travelers who like to arrive at their destination without any plans beyond their first hotel stay. Ezon, for example, has a couple spending $100,000 on their honeymoon and doing it day by day, consulting with him continuously about what to do next.

6. Speaking meaningfully
“Access is one thing,” said Susan Farewell of Farewell Travels, “but an experience that satisfies a greater sense of purpose is the ultimate luxury.” Farewell is putting together a trip for a family of five going to southeast Asia, for example, that will include an elephant encounter, though they are not interested in anything that exploits the animals for tourism. “They are interested in a non-profit ethical elephant experience, where they see the animals but are not riding them or enabling any exploitation of them.”

7. Unexpected pairings
Travelers are combining destinations and experiences that are very different from one another. Farewell is working on one trip where the couple is spending five days doing a cooking program in Tuscany and then moving up to Lake Garda for a few days of sailing lessons.

8. Fun with food
Everybody talks about cooking lessons or meeting the local chefs, but some want to go further. Farewell notes that in Ho Chi Minh City, you can take a Foodie Tour by Vespa, where a driver takes each traveler from one food venue to the next. It’s a high level of curated street food options, coffee houses, etc. The experience is off-the-charts fun but also informative and delicious.”

Della Grazia said some clients visit local homes where they cook and eat with the residents; sometimes those hosts act as local guides to explore the neighborhood.

9. Long-term trip planning
“I work with clients long term,” said Farewell, “seeing their travel needs in terms of five-year chunks. We develop a five-year travel plan for them, which we revisit every year. So I get questions like, ‘Where are we going this summer?’ They assume I have already thought it through for them based on their past trips, their kids’ ages, and the five-year plan we designed.”
 
10. Destination roulette
While everybody tries to figure out the “hot destinations,” sometimes it’s just random or based on a magazine article or news event, or even a shift in currency. Douglas Easton, managing partner at Celestielle Travel, said, “Maybe a new hotel will open or there’ll be an article in a travel magazine and suddenly bookings will come in. We had not a single Namibia booking last year and suddenly had four separate ones. That’s why you just have to be prepared for what comes up.”

Also, it’s long been known that even the wealthy like to get the best possible value in their vacations, and one way to do that is by staying on top of exchange rates with the dollar. Said Ezon, “If your client is going to spend $40,000 on a trip and there’s a big swing in the currency, they could save a third or more on that. That is why Europe has remained popular.”

11. Exotic emerges
Pedraza noted that younger travelers are heading for more exotic places, like Cambodia and Bali. “They have already been to the more traditional destinations so there is a real opportunity here.”

And Scott Wiseman, president of Cox & Kings, said, “Whether it’s requesting tickets to a sold-out baseball game in Japan, taking a motorcycle journey through Patagonia, textile shopping in remote India, or taking a private polo lesson in Argentina, today’s travelers are limited only by their imagination.”

12. Convenience is king
Luxury clients are flocking to buy ancillary services that make their travel experience easier. He Ezon said that over the past three years Ovation has had a 37.4% increase in ancillary travel products including: luggage shipping, airport greeters (to assist with connections, arrivals, and departures), and park guides (VIP guides in amusement parks to help deal with lines, logistics, etc.)

13. The human touch
“Even young people don’t just want to be digital beings,” said Pedraza. “They want to engage with other people—whether it’s tour guides, people on the street, or other travelers. It’s like when electricity was invented. You would flick the switch on and off because of the novelty. Now the novelty of digital has faded and people want emotional connections.”

14. It’s nice to share
The quality of sharing accommodations—whether it be Airbnb or sharing options introduced by hotel companies—is improving, said Pedraza. “This might lend itself to the local trend, as well, “because your sharing host might for a small fee become your local guide.”

15. Art is the new cuisine
While food has taken a central place in luxury travel, said Ezon, so too has art. “So many properties are recruiting an artist-in-residence and turning their public spaces into evolving galleries from local artists,” he noted, with revolving art exhibits. The new Faena Hotel in Miami Beach kicks up the art theme with a whole art district, art programs for guests, and a children’s art immersion experience where local artists inspire kids to create their own masterpieces. The Ritz-Carlton Toronto has an in-house artist who designs plates for the hotel’s restaurant and works with guests to design their own.

Source: http://www.travelmarketreport.com/articles/Travel-Professionals-Identify-15-Luxury-Travel-Trends-For-2016-And-Beyond

April 1, 2016

Heritage brands must amplify tradition of innovation to reach today’s consumer

Luxury Daily
By: Forrest Cardamenis
April 1, 2016

NEW YORK – Understanding the relationship between heritage and innovation is the key to appealing to today’s new consumer, according to panelists at the FACC Luxury Symposium on March 31.

Heritage brands have been successful for decades or centuries because within the heritage is a history of innovation around a core group of principles. While touting history could suggest to younger consumers that a brand is “old and stodgy” or the brand of their grandparents, focusing on innovating with products that appeal to today’s consumers will let the puzzle pieces fall into place.

“If we are heritage and brands that means we have stood the test of time, and we have stood the test of time because we have a tradition of successfully innovating,” said Trent Fraser, vice president Dom Pérignon, LVMH Wines & Spirits.

“We don’t make things that are required to sustain life; we have to find ways to fulfill people’s dreams and make them fall in love, and this requires innovation,” he said.

“Innovative companies ought to aspire to be heritage brands, because heritage brands have a history of innovation.”

FACC Luxury Symposium was organized by the French-American Chamber of Commerce.

Past and present
Before the commencement of the “Strong Heritage Brands: Artisans, Ateliers & Métiers” panel, a poll of the luxury executives in the room revealed that 81 percent believe the millennial attitude toward heritage brands is considerably different than their predecessors.

dom perignon.atelier bottle tasting
Dom Pérignon

“It’s not that surprising, but I think one of the most important things is desirability, not just in terms of millennials but for everyone,” Mr. Fraser said. “ One of my greatest challenges when I first joined was that there was this history and tradition of the brand’s story that needs to be told, but sometimes what comes with that is ‘old and stodgy, that’s my grandfather’s drink.’

“Telling that story today is quite difficult but we really need to bring it to life,” he said.

For Dom Pérignon, that story has been revitalized for younger consumers through the “Power of Creation” platform, which partners declared vintage wines with creators in different fields, bringing a fun, edgy and modern twist on the Dom Pérignon story.

For Baccarat, the sea change came on the level of how the product itself is marketed with “Everyday Baccarat,” which encourages consumers to extend their day by drinking from the brand’s crystal for breakfast and after dinner, not just for weddings and special occasions.

Baccarat Harcourt
Baccarat tumblers

“I was walking home on my first day, and it occurred to me, ‘We all have designer shoes, we all have designer handbags that we use everyday, yet we’re afraid to chip our glass so we don’t use it,’” said Jim Shreve, president, USA at Baccarat. “But look at the bottom of my shoes. Look at my watch with all the scratches – and these cost much more than some of our products.”

Everyday Baccarat appeals to all consumers, but with millennials being particularly skeptical about buying a product they will use infrequently, the proposition of crystal for everyday use could sell them on the brand.

The focus on the product is particularly important in fashion and jewelry, where brands must not shy away from being different or departing the norms.

robb.dec2014 chanel jewelry
Chanel jewelry ad

“Chanel as a heritage brand has been supported and carried by Mademoiselle Chanel through one word, for me, which is ‘disruptive,’” said Olivier Stip, senior vice president fine jewelry & watches, Chanel USA. “We are always trying to find what is the right balance between creation for the sake of the creation and the creation for a use for the customer.

“Heritage brands are the best place to be innovative,” he said. “When creative comes first and the marketing follows just to do the orchestration, that’s how you can create the blend, the innovation, and communicate the proper way.”

When telling a heritage story, brands must remember to keep the history on the present. The goal is not to sell consumers on a past success but rather on a tradition of quality still visible today.

For Van Cleef & Arpels, a museum exhibition must build a bridge between past and present.

Van Cleef & Arpels TEFAF 2016
Van Cleef & Arpels TEFAF 2016

“We go to a museum, we organize an exhibition, but the whole point is to prove craftsmanship is a living art and it doesn’t stay stuck in time,” said Alain Bernard, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels Americas. “Many people, many brands organize exhibitions in museums where they show pieces without any connection to what’s happening now.

“We need that heritage – the branches of a tree are never longer than the roots, so you need to have strong, deep, long roots before branching out – but the whole point of the exhibition is to show the evolution,” he said. “What we do today, what we do everyday, is inspired by what we have done before, and the exhibition shows that.”

Even in the service industry, where the ability to sell a consumer on an experience rather than on a product they don’t strictly need seems different, the principle is the same. Across all sectors, brands must adapt, whatever their service is – whether it is providing a place to stay or providing clothing and jewelry of a high quality that will last a lifetime – to the contemporary mindset.

“At Ritz-Carlton we absolutely believe exceptional service is timeless, it never goes out of style,” said Tina Edmundson, global officer of luxury and lifestyle brands, Marriott International. “What that actually means continues to evolve.”

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Deca Restaurant
Ritz-Carlton Chicago Deca Restaurant

Rather than fear these changes, whether it is mindset about what qualifies as a desirable product, a different purchase journey or something else entirely, brands selling either goods or services must find the proper blend of change and heritage. To that effect, 71 percent of executives in the room believe that brands should communicate CSR guidelines in an explicit manner to connect with millennials.

Shifting emphasis
In the case of personal luxury goods, another balancing act is the one between online and in-store channels. More than half of polled executives say that with new business models and a new generation of luxury consumers, the retail store is more important than before.

Despite the continued importance of the bricks-and mortar store, they are still generally operating in an out-of-date fashion, creating obstacles for sales staff, according to the Luxury Institute.

The consultancy conducted a focus group with 40 store managers who oversee multi-brand, premium and luxury stores, and found that there are a number of improvements that companies could make to help their in-store staff be more productive and effective. From updating technology and CRM systems to reallocating employee resources, there is room for improvement that needs to begin at the top (see story).

By the same token, some brands should opt to play up heritage, especially as they make a move to enter the new market. In these situations, connotations of datedness or stodginess will be displaced by curiosity about national heritage.

British brands looking to gain a foothold in the United States would do well to emphasize their “Britishness,” according to panelists at “GREAT Britain on Madison Avenue” held on Nov. 5.

British identity is wrapped up into ideas of elegance, heritage and wit. Brands venturing out of the United Kingdom into the U.S. or other countries need to find ways to inform consumers not just of the brand but also of the significance of its home country (see story).

“The challenge for our brand is the challenge for any brand – to continue to evolve based on the environment,” said Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta. “We need to evolve around a core set of standards and principles that should remain unchanged, but how those are expressed will change as our environment changes.”

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/heritage-brands-must-amplify-tradition-of-innovation-to-reach-todays-consumer/

March 24, 2016

Younger affluents with higher incomes more willing to pay for fine wines

Luxury Daily
By: Jen King
March 24, 2016

As a consumer’s income bracket increases, the likelihood of drinking wine once per week also rises, according to a new survey by the Luxury Institute.

The “Premium Wine Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI)” survey found that 90 percent of affluent consumers in the United States self-identify as wine drinkers, with 58 percent drinking wine at least once per week. How often an individual indulges in a glass of wine and how much they are willing to spend on bottles is directly linked to income, insights that may provide the oenology industry an understanding on how to best market to this demographic.

“Wine is experiential. Consumers are purchasing wine at higher volumes because they enjoy the restaurant and at-home dining experiences that include a great quality wine,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute. “Consumers will continue to spend more on experiences rather than products. Not only will they consume more wine but they will consume wine of higher quality and at a higher price.

“Wine continues to be more popular than beer or spirits, and it is acquiring a greater share in the beverage market; this trend has been evolving over the years,” he said. “Women and millennials, in particular, are consuming at a much higher rate as their buying power and connoisseurship evolves.”

The Luxury Institute’s Premium Wine Luxury Brand Status Index surveyed consumers 21 and older from households with an income of at least $150,000 a year.

Wine or reason
For the survey, affluent consumers were asked to evaluate 21 premium domestic wine brands based on the four pillars of brand value. Luxury Institute defines these pillars as superior quality, exclusivity, enhanced social status and an overall superior consumption experience.

The survey also asked participants to share which winemakers they feel are worth paying a premium price for, those they would recommend to friends and family and which wines they plan on purchasing next.

Luxury Institute found that of the 90 percent of affluents wine drinkers, 58 percent drink wine once a week, and 78 percent drink wine at least on a monthly basis. Affluent women are also more likely to be wine drinkers, with 61 percent drinking wine at least once a week compared to only 55 percent of men, who also tend to spend more on fine wine.

As consumers age, the frequency of weekly wine drinking also increases, notably after age 55, and peaks at 65 and older. Of this older demographic, 63 percent consume wine at least weekly.

Puiforcat Sommelier
Puiforcat Sommelier collection 

Similarly with age, as income rises so does the likelihood of enjoying a glass of wine during the week. Luxury Institute found that 53 percent of respondents earning less than $200,000 drink wine weekly or more frequently, with the statistic rising to 67 percent for those earning $500,000 or more in annual income.

Understandably, the price a consumer is willing to pay for bottles of wine is dependent on their income demographic. Willingness to pay for higher priced bottles increases with income and surprisingly decreases with age.

Consumers earning less than $200,000 spend $24 on average, compared to an average of $41 per bottle for those with incomes of $500,000 or more. Additionally, consumers under the age of 45 years old spend $33 on average for fine wine, but those 65 and older purchase bottles at retail stores for $23.

These averages are also dependent on occasion, with consumers typically purchasing  $28 at retail stores, $36 for a casual weekday dinner at a restaurant and $48 for weekend dining or during a special occasion of some sort.

Silversea Culinary Arts & Wine Voyages
Silversea Culinary Arts & Wine Voyages

In regard to purchasing wine at a restaurant, the survey found that seven out of eight affluent consumers do so. Twenty-eight percent do so at least once a week, with 62 percent of purchases being by the glass rather than the bottle.

The higher the income, the more likely it is that a consumer will opt for a bottle. Those with $500,000 or more in income are 63 percent more likely to buy wine by the bottle in a restaurant, spending on average $70 for special occasions and $55 for a weekday dinner.

This is much higher than the average of $48 per bottle for special occasions and $36 for weekday dining spent by affluent consumers.

It’s okay to wine a little
Recently, increased attention has been placed on the wine industry from luxury brands.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, for example, is pursuing a different kind of California dreamer with its latest property.

Alongside Alcion Ventures and Bald Mountain Development, Four Seasons will open 85 guest rooms and 20 private residence villas in Napa Valley, CA in early 2018. Napa Valley’s allure to cultured luxurians makes it an obvious destination for the hotelier, which already has several California properties (see story).

Four Seasons Napa Valley
Four Seasons’ Napa Valley, CA property 

Also, Hermès-owned silver maker Puiforcat is paying homage to the ritual of wine tasting with the help of a duo of experts.

Together with sommelier Enrico Bernardo and designer Michael Anastassiades, the brand created a collection intended to bring a new experience to those who revel in the tasting or serving of the beverage. Working with external creatives helped Puiforcat go outside the expected, traditional wine glass (see story).

Winemakers should rely on experiential storytelling and outreach to pull consumers in their direction.

“Quality and experience matter tremendously,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Winemakers should use their winery and membership experiences to create a client experience that makes them feel special.

“Wine companies should also use the on-premise platform, restaurants, hotels, etc., and off-premise platform, wine and liquor stores, to deliver beyond the product and create an experience that is focused on a great quality product with a compelling story and an experience that creates a long-term relationship,” he said.

Source: http://www.luxurydaily.com/younger-affluents-with-higher-incomes-more-willing-to-pay-for-fine-wines/

March 11, 2016

As Wall Street Bonuses Dip, New York Luxury Markets Are Feeling The Pain

International Business Times
By: Owen Davis
March 11, 2016

At Lane Jewelers in lower Manhattan, owner David Ostrow looked out the window. On the sidewalk, a man with a gray mustache peered intently at the necklaces in the display case. “This is his third time here this week,” Ostrow said. “He hasn’t bought anything.”

Business is down at the jeweler, a third-generation family-owned store just a block from Wall Street, whose clientele includes both C-suite executives and back-office bankers. The culprit: a lackluster season for big bank bonuses. “I can already tell you my numbers are down from last year,” Ostrow said.

When bonuses spike, Lane does brisk business on items like diamond earrings and tennis bracelets, purchases Ostrow called “pick-me-ups.” But the past few months have been a letdown. “Obviously there’s a trickle effect,” Ostrow said. “These guys’ whole year is their bonus check.”

Eight years after the financial crisis, Wall Street bonuses have yet to match the soaring peaks of 2006 and 2007, and recent gains in annual payouts have proved short-lived. The average New York investment banker’s bonus fell by 9 percent in 2015 to $146,200, the second down year in a row, according to New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. And luxury markets are feeling it.

“The financial sector has been important for the New York economy since Peter Stuyvesant’s time 400 years ago,” said Lawrence J. White, professor of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “There is no question there’s a ripple effect if bonuses aren’t going to be what they’ve been in the past.”

Of course, the smaller average bonus, which amounts to nearly three times the median American salary, is nothing to sneeze at. But in New York City, the world’s luxury capital, a wobble in bankers’ bonuses sends a shudder through markets for everything from Lamborghinis to $40 steaks.

Wages and salaries in the securities industry make up more than one-fifth of total New York City income, according to the comptroller’s office, although only 5 percent of New Yorkers work in finance. Overall, Wall Street bonuses add up to more than twice the incomes of all U.S. minimum-wage workers.

The total decline in 2015 year-end bonuses amounted to $1.7 billion, although not all of that sum will be felt immediately, since it includes deferred stock awards. But bonus season, which typically lasts from December to March, serves as a bellwether for luxury markets, according to Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a high-end consulting goods and services consulting firm.

“Salaries are great, but bonuses are what really make the financial services industry,” Pedraza said. “It’s a performance-driven industry.”

Several factors combined to crimp bonuses in what DiNapoli called “a challenging year in the financial markets.” The seven-year bull market in stocks finally stumbled over the summer, catching some banks off balance. And the advance of new regulations has weighed heavily on some banking divisions, particularly bond trading, where revenue has fallen nearly 40 percent since 2010 at the 10 largest investment banks.

“The uncertainty that exists in the marketplace will make people store their nuts for the winter a great deal more this year than in previous years,” Pedraza said. The same global economic worries that battered the markets in the past nine months have also diminished high-end foreign demand, Pedraza said, estimating that luxury sales have dipped as much as 20 percent in the past year.

Robert Serrano is feeling the pinch. As manager of Manhattan Motorcars, Serrano sells the type of high-end cars financiers often splurge on: Bugatti, Porsche, Rolls-Royce. But in a disappointing Wall Street bonus season, few are moving. “We had an extremely slow January and February.” Serrano said. “If the market has any effect on high-end cars, then you’re definitely seeing it.”

Serrano, who said that around half his clients work in the financial industry, has had to accept multiple canceled orders already this year, a relatively rare occurrence. “The market has a direct effect,” Serrano said. “Our cars are wants, not needs.”

Wall Street weddings are also shrinking with the bonuses, according to Maya Kalman, CEO and creative director at Swank Productions, a luxury wedding planning and event design firm in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Two clients who work in banking have recently approached Kalman to dial back on the number of wedding invites they can afford. For a Swank event, clients pay roughly $1,000 a head.

In a season that usually has clients looking forward to spring, sliding bonuses have put a slight chill on the planning business. “In March the weather gets better and people’s outlook gets brighter,” Kalman said. “But the first couple of months this year, bonus issues have definitely played a role in people being a little more skittish about their budgets.”

At Delmonico’s restaurant just off Wall Street, smaller bonus checks have meant fewer celebratory steaks for the bankers who work in the buildings towering overhead. “Naturally, when the bonuses are not what people expect them to be, we might see a slight decline,” said Carin Sarafian, the director of sales and marketing at Delmonico’s.

But business at the famed steakhouse, which opened in 1837, hasn’t suffered too greatly. The modest downturn in diners toasting big bonuses has been replaced by more morale-building team events, Sarafian said, as managers seek to assuage bankers whose payouts shrank in 2015.

And the restaurant has seen worse than this year’s disappointing bonus haul. “We’ve weathered all the ups and downs of markets, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy,” Sarafian said. “I don’t think the bonuses are going to really hurt Delmonico’s anytime soon.”

At Lane Jewelers, Ostrow expressed optimism that bonus season might end on a positive note. A smartly dressed man standing at the counter was hopeful, too. “I find out Friday,” he said, crossing his fingers.

Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/wall-street-bonuses-dip-new-york-luxury-markets-are-feeling-pain-2332717

February 25, 2016

SURVEY REVEALS THE 5 LUXURY BRANDS RICH GUYS BUY MOST

D’Marge
By: Elyse Romano
February 25, 2016

When you finally get around to making that billion dollar app idea, what will you do with your new-found wealth?

First you’ll build a Scrooge McDuck money pool and take morning dips. But once that’s taken care of, your closet will need a big-money makeover. A new study by the Luxury Institute reveals the luxury brands that wealthy men love most.

Each brand was rated on quality, exclusivity, social status, and self-enhancement. Of 42 famous menswear purveyors – including Alexander McQueen, Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, Paul Smith, and Gucci – Calvin Klein topped the list of brands that moneyed men have purchased from in the last year. Calvin also scored highly on name recognition, taking a second top spot on the list of brands men are most familiar with.

Rounding out the top five brands rich guys like to buy are Ralph LaurenHugo BossBurberry, and Giorgio Armani.

Source: http://www.dmarge.com/2016/02/survey-reveals-the-5-luxury-brands-rich-guys-buy-most.html

Affluent men most apt to recommend Isaia, Loro Piana to close connections: report

Luxury Daily
By: Sarah Jones
February 25, 2016

Being popular does not always lead to strong word of mouth, according to a recent survey of affluent men conducted by the Luxury Institute.

The top five brands listed in the men’s consideration sets were not the same as the five they would be most keen to endorse to family and friends. With luxury consumers, particularly those in emerging markets, becoming more sophisticated shoppers, smaller boutique labels have the opportunity to expand awareness by leveraging the recommendations of existing clientele.

“With technology and information at the tip of everyone’s fingertips, customers are becoming much more aware and interested in the boutique and ‘in-the-know’ brands,” said Milton Pedraza, founder and CEO of Luxury Institute. “The customer is better informed not only about the product, but also every aspect of a company’s brand values down to the supply chain.

“The most recognizable brands still have a major advantage, but with the customer’s ability to access product and brand information like never before, these companies are held under a microscope and their clients are willing and able to move to another brand at any moment.”

Luxury Institute’s latest Luxury Brands Status Index polled 3,900 affluent men from the top seven wealthiest nations about 42 menswear brands. Individuals had annual household incomes of at least $150,000 in the United States; 60,000 pounds in the United Kingdom; 50,000 euro in France, Germany and Italy; 1 million yuan in China and 150 million yen in Japan.

Public perception
Consumers were asked how much they agreed with four statements about each brand in question: “This brand delivers consistently superior quality,” “This brand is truly unique and exclusive,” “This brand is purchased by people who are admired and respected” and “This brand makes its buyers feel special across the full customer experience.”

The resulting LBSI ranges from one to 10 and represents an average of all respondents’ scores for the label.

According to the study, Isaia is the most effective at making consumers feel special across the entire purchase experience. The brand is perceived as being a label respected, admired men wear and buy.

While the Italian label is not widely known, with only 3 percent of those surveyed aware of the brand, the relatively small population that is familiar feels very strongly about the brand’s quality. Seventy-five percent of those who know Isaia would recommended it to other consumers.

The top five brands based on status were all small Italian designers with comparably limited awareness. Besides Isaia, men are most willing to endorse Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Loro Piana Gstaad illustration
Illustration by Loro Piana

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Calvin Klein, which men were most likely to have purchased in the past year. Despite its popularity among affluent male shoppers, Calvin Klein’s LBSI score is lowest among the brands studied.

Next in popularity is Ralph Lauren, which topped the list of brands considered for the next apparel purchase. Rounding out the top five most well-known and frequently purchased labels are Hugo Boss, Burberry and Giorgio Armani.

When it comes to high prices, affluent men feel that Hermès, Brioni, Ermenegildo Zegna and Loro Piana are the most worthy of premium price points. Armani, which came in fifth, was the only brand ranked at the top of the list for price justification and purchase intent.

“Quality, while extremely important, is only one factor that contributes to the success of a brand,” Mr. Pedraza said. “While Loro Piana and Gianluca Isaia scored highest in the Superior Quality LBSI score, they were also among the lowest ranked in Brand Familiarity.

“The consumers’ considerations for next purchase coincide closely with brand familiarity, likely because customers want certainty in their purchases, especially in a downward economy,” he said. “The trusted and familiar brands provide that.”

A similar Luxury Institute survey of affluent women yielded complementary results, showing that both male and female clientele may have more esteem for the labels they are not currently buying from (see story).

Spreading word
Affluent consumers still care about a brand’s rarity, with less common labels having better appeal.

Exclusivity and desirability go hand in hand for China’s wealthy, with the same brands ranked in the top five for both characteristics in a recent study by Promise Consulting and BNP Exane.

Hermès takes home top prize for exclusivity, which measures the consistent quality of goods, the brand’s prestige, the valuation of the brand’s customers and its ability to justify a high price point. Chinese consumers are generally becoming more sophisticated luxury consumers, making for tougher competition between labels for their attention and affection (see story).

For brands with a strong, loyal following, social media makes it easier for word-of-mouth recommendations to spread. Particularly among luxury consumers, a referral can have a large impact on purchase decisions.

According to a recent report by The Future Laboratory, the luxurian demographic relies heavily on the recommendations of friends and family. Many respondents shared that they ask for information and opinions of their peers before purchasing a luxury good or service.

Overall, 23 percent of respondents refer to peers when contemplating a purchase, showing that word of mouth remains powerful in the luxury goods sector (see story).

“Isaia has an incredible opportunity to increase recognition and awareness through relationship building at the front-line level, referral programs and word of mouth generation,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Using social media platforms to appeal to millennials and producing information for customers to review will draw in new consumers.

“Because of their exceptional ranks in quality and customer experience, they have an advantage that will allow brand referrals to spread quickly.”

Source: http://www.luxurydaily.com/affluent-men-most-apt-to-recommend-isaia-loro-piana-to-close-connections-report/

February 24, 2016

What Are The Best Luxury Brands?

Luxury Institute 2016 Global Survey Utilized Those Who Know, Voted – Affluent Men From Seven Countries Rank 42 Luxury Fashion Brands, Rate Each on Multiple Criteria

Pblicty
February 24, 2016

The New York-based Luxury Institute surveyed 3,900 high-income consumers from seven countries who met the following income thresholds in local currencies: United States ($150,000); United Kingdom (£60,000); France, Germany, Italy (EUR50,000); China (1 million CNY); and Japan (¥150 million).

Interestingly, “smaller brands now more than ever are finding it easier to make a big impact on the fashion industry in a relatively short period of time as they use the latest technology to bring their designs to a global stage,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “In this kind of landscape, both bigger and smaller fashion houses need to monitor the degree to which their brands resonate favorably with their target customers.”

Respondents rated 42 men’s fashion brands (0-10) on quality, exclusivity, social status, and self-enhancement. In addition, affluent shoppers weighed in on whether they are willing to recommend specific brands to family and friends. They also indicated which fashion brands are worth the premium prices, and which brands they are most likely to consider for upcoming fashion purchases.

Luxury Brand Status Index scores range from 0-10, and are an average of respondents’ degree of agreement with each of the following four statements:

- “This brand delivers consistently superior quality.”

- “This brand is truly unique and exclusive.”

- “This brand is purchased by people who are admired and respected.”

- “This brand makes its buyers feel special across the full customer experience.”

Worldwide popularity does not equate to higher brand status. In fact, each of the top five men’s fashion brands are smaller Italian designers with which only a very few affluent men were familiar.

Gianluca Isaia is a worldwide standout for being purchased by people who are admired and respected, and was also named the best brand at making buyers feel special across the full customer experience. In addition, 75% of men who are familiar with the Isaia brand would recommend it to others. Despite being held in high esteem by affluent travelers, Isaia is not a well-known name, identified by only 3% of men surveyed.

Calvin Klein is the brand that men around the world are most likely to have purchased in the past year, even though Calvin Klein ranks last in overall LBSI score among all brands evaluated. Ralph Lauren is the brand most likely to be considered the next time a fashion purchase is made, and it is among the three most popular brands along with Calvin Klein and Brooks Brothers among affluent U.S. men.

Worldwide, the top five fashion brands with which affluent men are most familiar, and most likely to have purchased in the past year, are Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Burberry, and Giorgio Armani. Armani is also one of the top five brands that affluent men from around the world view as most worthy of premium pricing. The top four are Hermès, Brioni, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Loro Piana.

The willingness of affluent shoppers to recommend a brand to family and close friends may be the best overall measure of satisfaction. On a global basis, wealthy men are most likely to recommend Gianluca Isaia, Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni, and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Below are all 42 men’s luxury fashion brands under consideration in the 2016 LBSI survey:

1. Alexander McQueen

2. Balenciaga

3. Bally

4. Bottega Veneta

5. Brioni

6. Brooks Brothers

7. Brunello Cucinelli

8. Burberry

9. Calvin Klein

10. Canali

11. Dior Homme

12. Dolce & Gabbana

13. Dunhill

14. Ermenegildo Zegna

15. Etro

16. Faconnable

17. Salvatore Ferragamo

18. Giorgio Armani

19. Gianluca Isaia

20. Givenchy

21. Gucci

22. Hermes

23. Hugo Boss

24. Jil Sander

25. John Varvatos

Source: https://www.pblcty.com/article/12645/what-are-the-best-luxury-brands

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