Luxury Institute News

August 30, 2016

Parisian Luggage Maker for the Truly Rich Seduces Luxury Giants

Bloomberg.com
By: Angeline Benoit
August 29, 2016

Only the really wealthy know Goyard.

Unlike Gucci or Louis Vuitton, the more than 200-year-old Parisian maker of luxury luggage and bags — with one of its 19th-century-style trunks going for 52,380 euros ($59,315) — maintains a studied silence. It doesn’t advertise in glossy magazines, and is among the last of its kind not swallowed up by a larger peer. So far, that is.

Photropher: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Photropher: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Kering Chief Executive Officer Francois-Henri Pinault wouldn’t be averse to adding it to his company’s stable of brands, a person familiar with the matter said. While neither Kering nor its larger rival LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton will officially comment on whether they’re interested in Goyard, industry observers say it’s unlikely they would pass up a chance to consider buying it.

“In the event that Goyard is for sale, LVMH and Kering will surely take a look,” said Mario Ortelli, London-based head of luxury at Sanford C. Bernstein. “The Goyard brand would be compatible with Kering’s portfolio, for example, or LVMH could seek to increase its market share in leather goods rather than let another company build up a competitor to its brands like Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Celine.”

Businessman Jean-Michel Signoles, who bought Goyard in 1998 from its founding family, won’t say if he wants to sell the company he turned around by expanding sales to the new, burgeoning wave of the world’s wealthy.

Aristocrats’ Bags

Luggage maker of aristocrats in the 19th and 20th centuries, Goyard counted the Maharaja of Kapurthala, the Rockefellers, the Romanovs, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Karl Lagerfeld among its customers, it says on its website. The company, which boasts a “complete disregard for marketing or mass-production,” also says it doesn’t engage “in any form of e-commerce.” It declined to respond to Bloomberg’s questions.

A visit to Goyard’s flagship Paris store on rue Saint-Honore, across Louis Vuitton and Moynard outlets, is a journey into the past, with trunks hearkening back to a bygone era. The shop also features an array of cases and duffle bags ranging from less than 3,000 euros to close to 6,000 euros, as well as tote bags from 1,560 euros and a red crocodile-skin number for 37,000 euros. Beach bags, towels, pouches, wallets, hangers, belts, dog collars, slippers, umbrellas, pens and pen cases complete the collection.

On a recent day, customers had to wait outside the shop because it could only accommodate a limited number of clients. Assistants in white gloves attended to the shoppers fortunate enough to have entered.

“Goyard has evolved from a very functional brand, and while it remains very classic, it’s technically and aesthetically appealing to people, with its hand-painted initials, seals and images,” said Dana Telsey, founder of Telsey Advisory Group in New York.

Burgundy Touch

The company traces its history back to 1792 when it was founded in Paris by Pierre-Francois Martin as a maker of cases and boxes to transport fragile objects. Childless, Martin passed his company on to one of his workers, Louis-Henri Morel, who hired 17-year-old Francois Goyard in 1845. Goyard took over the company after Morel’s death.

In 1885, the business was taken over by Francois’s son Edmond, who came up with the company’s emblematic Goyardine canvass, a soft and waterproof mixture of linen and cotton inspired by the clothes worn by the family’s water log drivers and their community in the village of Clamecy in Burgundy. The business was then handed down from father to son until it was bought by Signoles, who brought his own sons Alex and Remi on board.

Raking in Profits

For all its claims to “timeless elegance, craftsmanship and exclusivity,” Goyard was accumulating losses when it was taken over by Signoles, the founder of children’s clothes brand Chipie. Signoles pumped in capital, refurbished the Saint-Honore store and opened outlets in Asia and North America as well as a couple in Europe and one in Sao Paulo.

“The fact that it’s no longer family-owned, that it’s gained a better-known name, expanded its leather goods assortment and opened new stores, like the one on Madison Avenue in New York, that already says that the brand is aiming for greater reach,” said Telsey.

The strategy has paid off, regulatory filings with Paris’s Commercial Court show. Revenue surged to 41.1 million euros in 2013, the latest available data on the company, from 1.14 million euros in 2000. Profit rose to 12.8 million euros from 18,000 euros as exports accounted for a third of sales from less than 4 percent.

Brilliant Job

“Signoles has done a brilliant job of maintaining the brand heritage while growing it slowly,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, in New York.

Still, to be all that it can be, Goyard may need some help, he said.

“To reach a critical mass where it can survive and thrive on a larger scale, while remaining unique and exclusive, it will need the larger capital and know-how that larger groups can provide, as happened for Bottega Veneta with Kering, or Vuitton with LVMH,” Pedraza said.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-30/parisian-luggage-maker-for-the-truly-rich-seduces-luxury-giants

August 29, 2016

Bijan property on Rodeo Drive sells for $19,000 a square foot

Los Angeles Times
August 26, 2016
By: Andrew Khouri

The demand for $5,000 handbags and $25,000 suits is slipping amid global turmoil.

But enthusiasm for real estate on Rodeo Drive, where such high-end goods are sold, isn’t hurting. Instead it’s setting records.

The parent company of Louis Vuitton recently paid $122 million, or $19,405 a square foot, for the yellow House of Bijan building at 420 N. Rodeo, long home to a boutique known as “the most expensive store in the world.” The deal, revealed in public records, was the second time in seven months that a record fell on Rodeo.

Late last year, Chanel paid $13,217 a square foot for a store it was leasing nearby at 400 N. Rodeo, the high-water mark for California retail until last month’s Bijan sale.

The eye-popping amounts reflect how few properties there are on the Beverly Hills street, as well as how infrequently they go on sale. And in a struggling market for luxury goods, the deals underscore that high-profile streets such as Rodeo or Manhattan’s upper Fifth Avenue are far more than a place to sell a $10,000 timepiece.

“They are billboards in some places for the brand,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of consulting firm Luxury Institute. “The companies can demonstrate power, and their staying power, by buying up these properties.”

Indeed, Marc Schillinger, a director with commercial real estate company HFF who represented the seller Bijan Properties, said “everyone came out of the woodwork when we announced the opportunity to buy this asset.”

“There are only 2½ blocks on Rodeo Drive,” said Schillinger, who declined to confirm the price or buyer. uEvery luxury retailer wants to anchor their brand on Rodeo.”

That’s proving true even as the luxury retail market takes a breather. Sales of luxury goods in the U.S. have fallen around 10% on average over the last year, while traffic in luxury stores is down 20%, Pedraza said.

The downbeat numbers are due to several reasons — similar to ones that have softened ultra-high-end residential real estate markets in places such as Los Angeles, New York and London.

Slowing global economies and a strong U.S. dollar have sapped the buying power of foreigners and dampened tourism. Meanwhile, uncertainty over the economy in the U.S., along with the upcoming presidential election, has caused some wealthy Americans to hit pause on big purchases.

On Friday, Italian retailer Prada said its retail sales in the Americas fell 15% in the first half of the year, explaining that the U.S. market “remains tough.”

“So many factors have converged — unfortunately in a negative way,” Pedraza said.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has done better than many retailers though. The Paris-based luxury goods conglomerate reported that U.S. sales climbed 7% during the first half of the year.

A high-profile store, however, isn’t just about selling goods. Even in the age of e-commerce, high-end digs have worth as a place to hold flashy events and market a brand’s cachet across the globe.

Fashion houses are willing to pay a premium to buy such an opportunity. They’d rather do so than rent and risk losing the location if their lease is not renewed, said Robert Cohen, vice chairman of real estate firm RKF.

That’s especially true as fast-fashion companies with far lower prices increasingly compete for such locations, including an H&M that opened on a pricey stretch of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in 2014.

The highest price per square foot for a U.S. retail space came two years ago when Chanel purchased a shop it was leasing in New York on Madison Avenue for $31,329 a square foot, according to Real Capital Analytics.

“They are protecting their position on the street and in the market,” Cohen said of such purchases.

It’s unclear what LVMH’s plans are for the Bijan building, where the iconic store has operated for 40 years.

The Paris retailer with 70 brands already has multiple stores on Rodeo including Louis Vuitton and Dior locations that it leases and a Celine store that it owns.

A spokesperson for LVMH declined to comment, as did a manager at Bijan.

Iranian American designer Bijan Pakzad opened his appointment-only boutique on Rodeo Drive in 1976. It became known for its ultra luxury goods such as $6,000 suits and $19,000 ostrich vests.

Through the years, House of Bijan counted many high-profile names among his clients, including Michael Eisner, King Juan Carlos of Spain and Presidents Carter, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. Pakzad had success to match, with homes across the world he flew to on his own jet.

Pakzad died in 2011 but left a lasting imprint on Rodeo Drive, helping to make it a world-class destination. The store’s manager, who declined to give his name, said the store is now owned by Pakzad’s family.

“Long before Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld, Bijan had a keen understanding of the cult of personality in fashion, starring in his own ads and billboards, name-checking countless celebrities and parking exotic cars outside his store, all to stoke his fame,” former Times fashion critic Booth Moore said following Pakzad’s death.

But throughout the decades, as rents soared along with the cachet, Rodeo has lost many of its local boutiques, including Fred Hayman’s famed Giorgio Beverly Hills, with its distinctive white-and-yellow striped awning, which closed in 1998.

The Bijan store is operating under a lease; its expiration has not been disclosed.

Given the sky-high sale to LVMH, the pricey but small House of Bijan is likely to go as well, real estate broker Cohen said.

The French firm may want to bring in a deep-pocketed tenant who would pay more in rent, or give yet another of its brands a foothold on Rodeo.

“It’s one of the greatest luxury streets in the world,” he said. “It’s global branding and global domination.”

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bijan-sale-20160825-snap-story.html

August 4, 2016

Kate Spade stock plunges 18% after lower outlook

USA Today
By: Nathan Bomey
August 3, 2016

Kate Spade’s stock (KATE) plunged Wednesday after the retailer lowered its financial outlook for the year amid a deteriorating environment for luxury goods.

Shares of the New York-based handbag, clothing and jewelry chain closed down 18.2% to $16.47 after the company warned that it would post lower revenue and profit than it expected this year.

Among the reasons CEO Craig Leavitt blamed for the poor performance were “the retail landscape and continuing tourist headwinds.”

That squares with a broader downturn that’s rattling international shoppers, such as terrorism concerns, the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union and China’s economic slowdown.

The S&P Global Luxury Index, which tracks 80 publicly traded companies in luxury goods or services, has fallen nearly 15% over the last 12 months.

Kate Spade projected 2016 net sales of $1.37 billion to $1.4 billion, down from $1.385 billion to $1.41 billion. It projected adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $242 million to $260 million, down from $257 million to $282 million.

It predicted sales growth at stores open at least a year of “high single-digit to low double-digit,” down from “low to mid-teen.”

The company recorded second-quarter net sales of $320 million, up 13.7% from a year earlier, and net income of $26.8 million, more than triple the year-earlier quarter’s $8.5 million profit.

But the retailer got help from the opening of 17 new stores during the quarter. It now has 426.

“As we navigate these broader industry trends, we remain very confident in our long-term growth initiatives and have a number of strategies in place to drive our business in the second half of 2016,” Leavitt said in a statement. “We continue to focus on the factors we can control, executing our long-term strategy and continuing to grow as a global, multi-channel lifestyle brand.”

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/08/03/kate-spade-earnings/87992450/ 

Chanel most reputable brand despite low sentiment: report

Luxury Daily
By: Forrest Cardamenis
August 3, 2016

French fashion label Chanel has edged out Louis Vuitton as the most reputable brand, according to a global analysis performed by Brandwatch Analytics.

Chanel scored 396 points out of a possible 500, edging out Louis Vuitton by a mere four points and Dior by 15. The brand’s extraordinary visibility and engagement on multiple platforms and the corresponding growth of its online following helped give it the narrow victory.

“A brand’s reputation will undoubtedly have an effect on revenue and growth,” said James Lovejoy, content and research manager at Brandwatch. “Yet drawing statistically significant relationships between online conversations and revenue is notoriously challenging because there are so many various elements at play. 

“That said, our Brandwatch Social Index clearly places some of the highest grossing companies at the top: Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior,” he said. “Companies should consider what role they want to play online and how their social brand will affect sales, but hardline statements indicating a causal relationship between social media and overall revenue are not yet a reality.”

Looking at data from Q2 2016, “Luxury Fashion Social Index” scored 34 brands in the categories of social visibility, general visibility, net sentiment, reach growth and engagement/content, summing the scores to determine overall brand reputation.

Reputable source
In both general visibility and reach growth, Chanel scored a perfect 100, with Gucci following in general visibility at 93 and Burberry scoring an impressive 99 on reach growth. Chanel’s 91 in social visibility was good for third, behind Dior’s 97 and Louis Vuitton’s perfect score.

While social visibility measured a brand’s presence across social media channels, general visibility referred to conversation generated in news outlets, blogs and forums.

Chanel campaigns often appeal to consumers to engage or participate with the brand in more interactive ways.

Chanel Allure Homme Sport landing
Chanel Allure Homme Sport

For example, in June the atelier encouraged adventurous and active males to dive, glide and slide in a push for its Allure Homme Sport fragrances.

The fragrance campaign encourages men to “own the experience” through the use of 360-degree videos housed on its Web site as well as its branded YouTube channel. With limited product offerings for male consumers, Chanel must capture the spirit of its intended consumers in a relatable way, playing to interests rather than its brand infamy (see story).

Interestingly, Chanel scored only 31 points in net sentiment, which measured the ratio of positive to negative statements made online about the brand. Gucci also scored a 31, and only Rolex, with 30 points, was lower.

One possibility is that these brands’ historic standing and name recognition makes them a lightning rod for irate customers to air their grievances.

Gucci cruise campaign 465
Gucci cruise campaign

Gucci did come under criticism from Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority in April for an ad that was determined to depict and unhealthily thin model (see story) and also drew up controversy in Hong Kong for a misunderstanding related to local funeral rituals (see story).

On the other hand controversy from the first quarter related to animal cruelty (see story) did not appear to impact Prada and Hermès, who were in the middle of the pack.

Similarly, Rolex, Chanel and other low scorers such as Breitling, Givenchy and Burberry were not embroidered in major controversies but scored low.

On the flip side, Cartier’s 100 blew away second place Versace, which scored 70. It is further worth noting that 25 of the 34 brands had scores of 40 or lower, and only five scored more than 50, suggesting that the transparency the Internet provides also can create negative discourse around a brand.

Cartier Snakewood Amulette Instagram post

Additionally, a low score does not necessarily mean overwhelmingly negative response online.

Tying sentiment or mood to a single metric or numerical value is notoriously difficult,” Mr. Lovejoy said. “To really understand what’s happening, businesses will need to parse and measure individual topics that drive negative and positive conversations. 

“Ignoring neutral conversations, positive conversations surrounding Cartier outweighed negative ones 99.3 to 0.7 on Twitter,” he said. “Meanwhile, the Twitter conversation around Chanel was 93.2 percent positive and 6.8 percent negative. While this study looked at sentiment beyond Twitter, it’s clear that the difference isn’t actually that significant.”

“People who discuss these brands are generally positive, so when a handful of customers do have something negative to say the effect is greater. In a brief survey of Chanel, there are some complaints regarding customer service and price. While Chanel may be able to work on its customer service experience, its iconic name and exclusive price tag may always draw some level of criticism.”

Engagement and content was also a blowout, with Chanel’s second place score, a 74, trailing Ted Baker’s 100. Louis Vuitton and Dior followed with 68, and Rolex was fifth with a 65.

Rounding out the top 10 after Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior were Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Versace, Christian Louboutin, Prada and Michael Kors and Ted Baker. The lowest scorers – Lanvin, Dsquared2, Bottega Veneta, Kenzo and Salvatore Ferragamo – were sunk primarily by extremely low engagement scores.

Social engagement
While Brandwatch’s index helps to gauge overall market reputation, the popularity of a widely bought brand does not always sync with consumers’ perception of its value and luxury credentials, according to a survey by the Luxury Institute from earlier this year.

For its Luxury Brand Status Index series, Luxury Institute surveyed affluent women from seven of the world’s wealthiest nations to gain insights on which brands hold the most clout in terms of quality, exclusivity, social status and overall ownership. Consumer opinion is tied to whether one feels the asking price of a premium product is worth it, and it correlates directly to the brand’s perceived value among frequent and aspiring shoppers.

Despite the differences, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior rank highly by either measure. Affluent women ranked Chanel and French leather goods maker Hermès as the two fashion houses most worth their premium asking prices, followed by Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Prada (see story).

louis vuitton.cruise 2016
Louis Vuitton Cruise 2016

By contrast, Hermès ranked 18th in Brandwatch’s index, owing to low social visibility and accompanying low engagement.

Online conversation around brands is driven almost entirely by consumers. Many brands, however, still keep a barrier between themselves and consumers, forgoing social media’s natural tendencies in favor of staying visible without compromising aspiration.

A Brandwatch report from last year shows that despite boasting immense followings, a large percentage of luxury fashion brands are surprisingly inactive on social media.

Brandwatch’s “Social Insights on the Luxury Fashion Industry” report has discovered that although a brand may place well by adopting social media, they are only scratching the surface of the opportunities available by mining social intelligence data. Luxury brands are often seen as latecomers in terms of embracing social and digital channels, but by fully taking into account the insights available from social media interactions, these labels can craft high-touch service in an online setting (see story).

Amongst the top five, Louis Vuitton overtook Dior for the number two spot largely by raising its visibility scores,” Mr. Lovejoy said. “Cartier jumped from 8th to 4th due to its improved net sentiment and reach growth scores. Tiffany & Co. jumped from 7th to 5th with an increase in reach growth and a slight development in its social visibility. 

“Prada had one of the strongest improvements, moving from 18th to 8th, in large part due to strong reach growth and modest growth in social visibility and engagement and content,” he said. “This is a competitive industry; reputation is a vital part of business for luxury fashion retailers.

“It may be difficult to take some of the leaders off their top positions, but at the same brands like Prada, which jumped up 10 spots, indicate that there is still room for movement and growth,” he said.

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/chanel-most-reputable-brand-despite-low-sentiment-report/

July 20, 2016

How Leveling Up Your Offering Can Help Or Hinder Your Brand

MediaPost
By: Rachel Spiegelman
July 20, 2016

Uber Select. Soothe. Onefinestay. Now, even the pink mustache is getting fancy.

When Lyft announced it was launching its Premier service earlier this month, allowing its users to get picked up by a high-end luxury vehicle, it caught literally no one by surprise. With 70% of consumers demanding a more personalized shopping experience, brands are responding by providing “menus” of options. But only 26% of consumers feel it’s working, according to the Luxury Institute.

Back in the day, there was the haves and the have-nots. Rodeo or JC Penney. Chanel or Osh Kosh. Brands and businesses were all-in on a specific target and made sure those chosen ones felt special, taken care of, often making outsiders know they were exactly that.

Lyft was originally launched as an innovative way to connect drivers to riders in a world where young city dwellers were forgoing car purchases as part of everyday life. The whimsical pink mustache. The guessing game of what kind of car and driver you would get. “A ride whenever you need one.” It was all part of the lifestyle of Lyft and its every-day, mainstream users. But at the same time, the company was also (basically) telling my 65-year-old New Englander mother that if her Mercedes was ever in the shop, Lyft was not for her.

But now, with most of these services offering a “high-end” option, the lines are blurring around the types of consumers a brand can effectively reach.

So what’s changed?

First, it’s our definition of luxury. My mother’s generation thinks of luxury as a status symbol. This is not true for younger consumers. Millennials and Gen X — my generation — consider it a reward. A reward for dealing with work stress and life stress and family stress and so on. It’s something we deserve because of our effort, not something that defines our place in life.

Secondly, with the amount of exposure we now have on a daily basis — war, politics, hardship — our generation has adopted a “why wait” strategy. This is a primary reason experiences are becoming more important than savings accounts. We place the highest value on our own time, not on a logo.

This combination of immediate gratification for high-end rewards has redefined the luxury market. It’s what I often refer to as “expedited exclusivity.” We expect more, at a faster pace, than we ever have before. People are demanding higher-end treatment younger, and on a more regular basis.

Naturally, brands have adapted to it, or in the case of Lyft, adopted it. By taking it’s quirky, innovative service brand and slapping a “premium” next to it, they are going after a bigger-wallet consumer or more likely one who seeks expedited exclusivity and had not previously thought of Lyft as a brand that could offer that.

The lesson here is that making higher-end goods accessible to the mainstream needs discipline, but it can be done. With the right guardrails, most brands can do what Tiffany and Mercedes and Burberry successfully did: create lower-cost product lines, or mass awareness and appeal, without diminishing the true iconic value of the brand.

But can it go in reverse? Can brands that start out appealing to the masses create a truly leveled-up experience that will last?

Our history says it may be too far a bridge to cross. Walmart famously failed a decade ago when they launched Metro &, an upscale fashion line that intended to show they were on the cutting edge only to experience a disastrous launch that crippled national sales that year. And we all saw the public backlash that almost shuttered 114-year-old JCPenney when they decided to forgo coupons.

Have times changed enough to allow for brands to level up? I guess we’ll know the answer to that if you see my Mom riding sidecar with a pink mustache in the wind.

Source: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/280681/how-leveling-up-your-offering-can-help-or-hinder-y.html

July 18, 2016

Why luxury retailers are losing their luster

USA Today
Hadley Malcolm and Chris Woodyard
July 18, 2016

NEW YORK — Bling appears to not be as much of a thing.

Luxury retailers, which were flying high as the wealthy thrived, are starting to look more like diamonds in a pretty rough spot.

Threats to global stability — including terrorism, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and China’s slowdown — are rattling international shoppers of high-end goods. At the same time, luxury retailers are losing share to online sellers, an issue bedeviling mainstream chains. They’re also suffering at the hands of discounters and fast-fashion luxury lookalikes.

Investors are taking note. The S&P Global Luxury Index, which tracks the value of the stock of dozens of companies that deal in luxury goods including automakers, has lost 15.06% in the past year, compared to a 2.58% rise in the S&P 500, an index of the 500 largest publicly traded companies.

“If you’re tied to international consumers, you really have not had any sense of relief in the past several quarters,” says Simeon Siegel, equity research analyst with Nomura Securities.

As second-quarter earnings reports unfold, purveyors of luxury goods who noted some stress, such as jeweler Tiffany and apparel sellers Ralph Lauren and Burberry, will be watched to see if the trouble they reported in the first quarter is continuing or worsening.

Brexit creates a whole new level of uncertainty for some of the world’s wealthier spenders. It’s another shock that, combined with terror attacks in France, the U.S., Bangladesh and elsewhere, adds up to trouble for luxury firms because it scares off tourists — and tourists are some of the best customers for luxury companies.

“A few years ago, tourists would come buy empty luggage and fill it up and send it back home,” says Arnold Aronson, partner and managing director of retail strategies at consultancy Kurt Salmon. That’s not necessarily happening anymore

The drop in tourism is the biggest reason luxury retail traffic is down 20% from a year ago, says Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, a consulting firm.

It’s a strange turn for luxury, which looked unstoppable when the world’s wealthy were riding high. Globally, the luxury market is growing. Personal luxury goods purchases have tripled in the past 20 years to more than $270 billion, according to a 2015 report from Bain & Co. North and South America combined have become the largest market for personal luxury goods purchases.

But that growth has slowed in recent years. Last year, sales in the Americas were flat on a constant exchange rate basis, according to Bain.

Besides global economic pressure, even the most tony retailers are feeling the same heat from discounters and online sellers as the mainstream retail industry.

A recession-era boom in outlet and off-price stores had everyone from Coach to Prada hawking their once-coveted goods at a discount, or department store offshoots such as Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off 5th doing it for them. Fast-fashion players such as H&M and Zara churn out luxury lookalikes at a fraction of the price.

When it comes to online, some shoppers are turning to luxury-for-less sites such as Gilt or The Real Real.

“The story with luxury is it’s just not as exclusive and it doesn’t justify the price like it used to,” Pedraza says. “Too many of them are discounting, and there’s not enough consumer demand.”

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/07/18/luxury-retail-hurting-from-over-distribution-lack-of-tourist-spending/85872502/

July 13, 2016

How will Burberry’s changing leadership impact the brand?

Luxury Daily
Sarah Jones
July 13, 2016

British fashion label Burberry’s terminated experiment of having Christopher Bailey serving as both chief creative and CEO holds lessons for others in the luxury sector.

On July 11, the house announced that Mr. Bailey would be stepping down as chief executive, taking on the role of president in 2017, when Marco Gobbetti will join the brand as its new CEO. With the luxury industry facing challenging times due to geopolitical and economic turbulence, Burberry is not likely to be the only brand to see changes in leadership.

“There’s no question that Christopher’s skills as it turns out lie in being a great creative as opposed to operational,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute.

“Luxury has not had such a difficult moment with so many factors affecting it on the downside in a generation,” he said. “Even the 2008 recession, everybody knew that if real estate came back and the stock market came back, people would go back to their old buying habits.

“This is uncharted and unpredictable territory now, where there are so many factors working in such as chaotic way on the luxury industry…I think it’s not only Christopher not having the operational skills, not having what we call adaptive expertise, the ability to adapt in a complex environment.”

New era
Mr. Bailey took on the role of CEO in 2014 in addition to his creative duties when Angela Ahrendts left for Apple.

The luxury landscape in 2014 looked very different than it does today. Between China’s bubble, Brexit, the pound’s deflation, changing consumers habits and the shift toward digital and ecommerce, the industry is much more uncertain than it was just a few years ago.

This era of uncertainty requires more complex decision-making and leadership than was needed before, when strategy was more direct and obvious.

“It was unfortunate that he took on both jobs at a time when things are so complex, and where you need more operational expertise right now than perhaps creative expertise,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Maybe you need both, but clearly one person cannot do both. I think that’s what was proven out.

“Maybe in easier times, he might have been able to do it, but this is so complex,” he said. “I don’t even look at it as a demotion. I look at it as a change that was necessary and he graciously accepted.”

Burberry, as with a number of other brands, is being stretched.

Burberry SoHo, 131 Spring Street New York, New York - Main Entry
Burberry store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood

The company’s revenues dipped 1 percent for the 2016 fiscal year, leading the public company to unveil a three-year plan aimed at improving profitability.

Burberry’s 2.5 billion pounds, or $3.655 billion, in revenue for the year was slightly behind 2015’s figures, but the brand remains optimistic about the future. The label is establishing a three-year strategy that will cut costs by 100 million pounds, or about $146 million per year by 2019, enhance productivity and spur revenue growth (see story).

“Burberry’s challenges are more operational than creative,” said Chris Ramey, president of Affluent Insights, Miami. “They’ve made strategic mistakes in China and the United States that have to be fixed.

“Keeping Bailey was in their best interest,” he said. “There is value in continuity.”

Burberry is not alone, with Ralph Lauren designing a similar plan to restructure for growth (see story). Hugo Boss’ CEO also stepped down, ending his eight-year tenure amid the German fashion label’s dimmed profit outlook (see story).

“You can’t just cut your way into success,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Yes, you need to restructure, you need to cut costs, you need to slim down that organization, and then you need to get creative.

“You need a plan to innovate on product, and you need to dramatically shift your front line people from being transactors to expert relationship builders,” he said. “So they need to build true relationships with their clients, not transactions.

“And they need to make those two—the product and relationship building—into competitive advantages, which means that they need to sit way up on the bell curve because they are high performers. They need to be experts at learning and execution, and very few companies right now are prepared for that task.”

Mr. Pedraza predicts that other brands may be “casualties” of an inability to adapt, estimating that about half of CEOs are not prepared to deal with the complexities of today’s market. According to him, Burberry’s position is a sign of a larger trend in the industry that extends beyond hard luxury goods into other services and products that target the wealthy, such as yachts and real estate.

With Burberry’s revenues in decline, this leadership shift will enable Mr. Bailey to focus on where his talents lie most: in design. Taking over for him will be Mr. Gobbetti, an industry veteran with 20 years of experience, who is currently at Céline.

Burberry Christopher Bailey
Christopher Bailey

“The board firmly believes that these new leadership roles coupled with actions, identified in the recent business review, will significantly enhance our ability to deliver long-term sustainable growth and sector outperformance over time,” said Sir John Pearce, chairman of Burberry, in a brand statement.

“Since taking on the combined role of chief executive and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey has done an excellent job set against a backdrop of challenging market conditions,” he said.

“The review that he has led into our ways of working is the blueprint for the next phase of Burberry’s evolution. To maximize our ability to successfully implement these plans, Mr. Bailey identified the need for a new chief executive for the business who could partner with him as we execute on the new strategies and I am excited to see what they will do together.”

Digital divide
For years, Burberry has been known for its digital prowess and as an early adopter of everything from Snapchat to Apple TV.

Burberry scored the highest in L2’s Digital IQ test for fashion brands. In addition to success on emerging platforms, updates to its mobile site have tripled while legacy investments such as “Art of the Trench” continue to find success with regional updates (see story).

On the other hand, Mr. Gobbetti’s employer since 2008, Céline, is almost the complete opposite, with no ecommerce, no social media accounts, a simple Web site and limited digital marketing.

Given that Burberry’s modern brand positioning partly hinges on its innovation, it is unlikely to regress within digital. However, this may be a case where Mr. Gobbetti’s experience driving a brand with mostly traditional channels will need to mix with digital expertise within the Burberry team.

“Looking at things through a digital lens, Burberry’s decision to name Gobbetti as CEO was an interesting one, considering that he comes from a brand with little digital prowess,” said Elizabeth Elder, L2 research associate.

“The managerial movements can be perceived as indicating a shift in priorities, from digital engagement to fiduciary responsibility,” she said. “It remains to be seen what will happen with Burberry’s place as an industry leader in digital, as it will depend upon Burberry’s ability to not only maintain—but continue to grow—it’s digital footprint. 

“In the luxury fashion space, Burberry has established itself as a trailblazer in the digital sphere. This has undeniably contributed to the brand’s success.

“We will have to wait and see how Gobbetti’s leadership unfolds with respect to digital, however the brand shouldn’t rest on their laurels. It will be necessary for Burberry to maintain their innovations in digital if they hope to increase profits moving forward.”

Leadership and strategy should not be limited to the CEO and creative director, but rather spread among a team of individuals with specific abilities and expertise. With the changing luxury industry, decades of experience does not always translate to preparedness for today’s market.

“Gobbetti will dissect every initiative including digital,” Mr. Ramey said. “Its existence doesn’t mean it is successful. Nor does Gobbetti’s lack of digital experience predict its demise.

“Each position requires a specific skill set,” he said. “It’s rare when one person possesses the necessary left and right brain processes for a billion dollar brand.”

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/how-will-burberrys-changing-leadership-impact-the-brand/

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

Older Posts »