Luxury Institute News

October 21, 2016

This Is Probably The Most Ostentatious Christmas Catalogue You’ll Ever Flip Through
By Abha Bhattara
Thursday, October 20

What do you get the man or woman who has everything?

Neiman Marcus has a few suggestions, starting with a $1.5 million Cobalt Valkyrie-X private plane in rose gold. There’s also a $93,000 ruby-and-diamond-encrusted Chanel watch or a $100,000 collection of classic children’s books. Or you could buy yourself a walk-on role in the Broadway show “Waitress” (price tag: $30,000).

The newly released Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, an annual exercise in all things excessive, includes more than 700 items, ranging in price from $10 (for a package of six snowflake-shaped marshmallows) to the $1.5 million private plane.

In the mood for a vacation? There’s a weeklong stay at three estates in the English countryside — which also comes with a helicopter trip to a castle — for $700,000. Or a slumber party for 12 at the company’s flagship store in Dallas for $120,000.

Or perhaps you’re feeling a bit distrustful. The luxury retailer says it has you covered, with a $25,000 mattress with a built-in fireproof lockbox.

Extravagances aside, the company says about 40 percent of the catalogue’s offerings are priced under $250. There’s a bracelet made of paper beads for $25 and a stainless steel beer growler for $60.

Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, says those lower-priced items are particularly important this year as high-end retailers struggle to stay afloat. Neiman Marcus has battled slipping sales for four quarters in a row. In September, the Dallas-based company posted a quarterly loss of $407.2 million.

“This is the most democratic Neiman Marcus catalogue I’ve ever seen,” Pedraza said, citing a $35 tube of Dior lipstick. “They know they need to appeal to millennials if they’re going to survive two decades from now.”

The uncertainty of the upcoming presidential election, combined with fears about the effect of Brexit on the European economy, are contributing to general unease, he said.

“Luxury is in a very challenging spot right now,” Pedraza said. “The world economy is flat and young customers are struggling. When millennials as a group have $1.3 trillion in student debt, it’s hard to splurge.”

But that doesn’t mean Neiman Marcus is completely holding back.

The company — which sifts through thousands of submissions in the spring — is offering 12 “fantasy gifts” in all, including “quarterback fundamentals” lessons with four-time Super Bowl winner Joe Montana ($65,000), his-and-hers island cars designed by Lilly Pulitzer ($130,000) and a trip to the Grammy Awards ($500,000).

The Christmas Book began in 1926, when the retailer released a 16-page Christmas booklet to its most loyal customers. Neiman Marcus offered its first “fantasy gift” in 1959: a black angus steer, either on the hoof ($1,925) or cut into steaks ($2,230). It was purchased by a customer in South Africa.

In the years since, Neiman Marcus has served up a steady — if jaw-dropping — selection of offerings, including his-and-hers mummy cases (one with an actual mummy), and his-and-hers camels (a customer in Texas bought the female camel, which boarded an American Airlines flight on Christmas Eve to arrive in Fort Worth on Christmas morning).

The most expensive item offered to date: A $33 million Boeing Business Jet. It didn’t sell. A $6.7 million helicopter with built-in entertainment system, however, did.

For the majority of Americans, though, Neiman Marcus’s “fantasy gifts” will be just that. Americans on average last year spent $800 on all of their holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s enough to buy an orange hippo figurine from the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.

Or if that seems too pricey, you could just buy a copy of the catalogue — for $15.


October 19, 2016

Why Did Lamborghini Give Marvel a Huracán to Destroy in Dr. Strange?
By Brett Berk
Wednesday, October 19

The brand let Marvel use six of its flagship supercars while filming, and at least one was wrecked in a key scene. With a mostly young audience watching these movies, is this smart product placement?

In the latest Marvel Comics film, Doctor Strange, the titular character is a wealthy neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car crash and who, in his quest to regain their function, gains the mystical powers that make him a superhero. The crash is therefore a key plot point. And thus an important product placement opportunity.

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have their Acuras, Iron Man has his Audi R8. So what does Steven Vincent Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) drive during his harrowing and life-altering wreck? A 10-cylinder, wedge-shaped, screaming hunk of menace: the $237,250 Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4.

This makes perfect sense for the character. “I do believe that there are a lot of characteristics of Doctor Strange that are connected with the Lamborghini philosophy,” says Lamborghini’s chief executive officer, Stefano Domenicali. “Doctor Strange is a special guy, because he discovers when he was so young that he had a super power. He’s a leading guy in the world of technology. He is of course very ambitious—he wants to be seen as a top performer. He’s basically pure, and cutting edge, and visionary. These are the values that we have at Lamborghini.”

It’s thus seemingly logical to see Doctor Strange in a Lamborghini. But is it similarly sensible to see a Lamborghini in Doctor Strange? Especially since the car’s crash is such a key moment in the film?

Short answer: yes.

Supercar Marketing

In an increasingly segmented marketplace, contemporary ultra-luxury and super-performance marques such as Bugatti, Aston Martin, Bentley, and McLaren have been turning away from attending mass-market events, placing their emphasis on more elite and focused opportunities where they’re more likely to encounter actual buyers. To this end, all these brands—Lamborghini included—forwent hosting a display stand at the September Paris Motor Show, the kickoff to the annual globetrotting car convention circuit, but they were all immensely present at the August Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, one of the premier gatherings of high-net-worth/automotive-immersed consumers in the world.

“Ultra-auto brands taking the super exclusive approach and going where the real customers are,” explains Milton Pedraza, CEO of market research and consulting group Luxury Institute.

So why would a recherché and exotic brand such as Lamborghini, with limited marketing budget and footprint, choose to invest its energies in a blockbuster superhero movie aimed mostly at kids?


“In a world where young people are not so interested in buying cars, they are very interested in, and indeed attracted by, our cars. Because they are different,” says Domenicali. “They see our cars to be super, which is a key differentiator in terms of being seen as special.”

A Bigger Lamborghini

To reach these aspirational consumers better, the boutique brand is planning for significant growth. With the release of the forthcoming Urus SUV in 2018, the automaker is hoping to double its global sales. “Remember that Lamborghini is trying to expand its volume base with an SUV so it may be that they desire significant brand awareness right now,” Pedraza says. “The Huracán can create a design-plus-performance halo for the entire brand, and the movie route is a great fit for communicating that message.” (Lest you think this expansion is going to turn Lamborghini into Ford, know that total annual global production is projected to increase from just 3,500 to 7,000 vehicles each year, or about the number of F-150 pickups sold every few days in the U.S.)

Also, it turns out action movies and entertainments like them are a pretty good means to reach high net-worth individuals. According to the massive emotional and lifestyle survey data set assembled by automotive research firm Strategic Vision, while elite car buyers may enjoy hosting parties and world travel twice as much as mainstream (BMW, Mercedes) luxury buyers, they enjoy going to the movies at rates similar to those who end up in mass-market vehicles, and they’re almost three times more likely to enjoy playing an action video game on a PS4 or Xbox. “In short, please don’t discriminate against the supercar customer simply because they have money,” says Strategic Vision’s president, Alexander Edwards. “They want to be a superhero too.”

How Movies Speak to Us

Some of the deeper reasoning behind this desire is revealed more deeply in Edwards’s data. “When we escape into the stories of movies, we look for versions of our ‘Ideal Self,’” he says. “Although it doesn’t usually happen at a conscious level, we often compare our self-perception to that of our ideal self. The gaps that emerge, we try to fill with things that can help us obtain the ideal. A vehicle often fills that gap. So while I may not be a superhero, when I drive my Audi, I can be Tony Stark. In essence, these vehicles are more than a sidekick, but something that completes the hero.”

Of course, this doesn’t exactly explain the desirability, from a marketing perspective, of the seemingly disastrous correlation between the Huracán and its key plot point in the film, which involves the vehicle being totaled in a wreck. Lamborghini CEO Domenicali has an interesting spin on that. “Despite the fact that the crash was so massive, two main things: First, Doctor Strange was able to be alive after—certainly we don’t forget the safety of the car. And secondly, it was able, for him, to be the turning point of his life. So therefore we can connect to the fact that we are also on his side in a life-changing moment.”

The seemingly infinite nature of the Marvel franchises suggest that this life-altering relationship could potentially continue beyond this one appearance. When asked if Dr. Strange might drive another Lambo in a sequel, Domenicali responds enthusiastically.

“He’s a visionary man, he has to drive a Lamborghini in the future,” he says. “Maybe an Urus?”


Urgency for Luxury Brands to Adopt Mobile Clienteling
Wednesday, October 19
By Kevin Nix

Luxury brands all know that maintaining a high level of personalized service for their discriminating and well-heeled clients is an imperative.

Often referred to as “clienteling,” high-end retailers rely on data about customer preferences, behavior and purchases to establish long-term relationships with their top customers.

But, according to Bain & Company (2016), there is declining growth in the United States luxury market and slower overall global growth. So, luxury retailers are under pressure to up their game and take every measure to meet the high expectations of its top customers.

Making A Point

If you are a Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton or Rolex, to name a few, your customers want and expect a VIP buying experience. And no wonder – if someone is spending thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands, on designer watches, haute handbags and bespoke suits, they want to be treated accordingly.

Purchase frequency varies as well, so how can luxury brands engage with their high valued customers to keep brand loyalty and increase their share of wallet?

It is not through traditional methods of discount coupons and loyalty points.

In fact, Michael Kors and Coach both announced in August that they will be limiting distribution of their products and not participating in department store couponing or friends/family discounts – a practice they believe could be eroding their brand’s cachet.

During the company’s quarterly earnings call in August, Michael Kors CEO John D. Idol explained the brand’s decision, saying “We think that this is critical for us … to protect our brand image.”

Enter clienteling, a masterful way for luxury brands to demonstrate their brand image with a first-class customer experience.

Hold A Mobile Tablet With That White Glove

Capturing and leveraging knowledge about your top customers and their preferences is key to providing the kind of white-glove experience that luxury consumers expect.

To deliver meaningful 1:1 personalized service, high-end salespeople need to know not only birthdays and anniversaries, but color and style preference, size, past purchases, wish lists and maybe even the names of their customers’ children or pets.

Some customers want Champagne served as they browse, while others do not care to imbibe.

Successful salespeople recognize opportunities to recommend purchases for key events – a husband’s birthday, perhaps – and also highlight the new handbag in a color/style that fits their client’s preferences.

Traditionally, this kind of information was kept in the salesperson’s “little black book” or customer log.

Fast forward to today and that little black book can be digitized on desktops – and even more accessibly on mobile devices – with easy access to a wealth of information to complement and supplement every customer profile.

Of course, it is not just luxury retail brands who should be getting in the mobile clienteling game.

Luxury hotel chains strive to master this 1:1 VIP experience by maintaining key facts about their top customers so that they can anticipate needs and recreate preferred experiences.

If they like classical music playing in their room on arrival, and a current copy of The Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times with their breakfast, that is what they will get.

Capturing all these guest preferences, attributes and interests and sharing it across all hotel properties, and ensuring that employees have this information at their fingertips at the right time – this is where mobile clienting can make the VIP experience a reality.

In 2013, the Luxury Institute reported that with clienteling, “data collection rates can triple and retention double, especially for the top 20 percent of customers who drive 70 percent of sales.”

And Exane BNP Paribas reports that interactions based on mobile clienteling “are expected to equate to about 40 percent of the luxury market’s growth by 2020.”

Yet where are luxury retailers today – really and truly – on mobile clienteling?

The truth is, not nearly far enough.

There is much greater adoption that needs to happen to reach the tipping point where effective clienteling reaches mass scale.

Evaluate Your Own Mobile Clienteling Readiness

Surprising and delighting your customer is nowhere more critical than in the luxury sector.

What are the key factors for evaluating your mobile clienteling readiness?

Do you have the right underlying technology platform to deliver the right customer information at the right time to the right sales people?

Good clienteling is only as good as the data that fuels it. So, the ability to gather the right data quickly, access it and make it actionable at the point of customer is paramount.

Are you empowering your salespeople to take action that will surprise and delight, such as an on-the-spot upgrade, custom perk or VIP treatment delivered right to the customer’s mobile device?

Are you tying clienteling to loyalty? Think about strategies to empower your sales associates with the ability to recognize and reward your customers in a unique manner.

For example, set up a program with important metrics such as customer spend per year and referrals and track them internally – as an “invisible points” system.

Then when a client reaches a milestone that only the sales associate is aware of, he or she is empowered at that moment to offer the customer an experiential reward, such as VIP access to an event.

How is your clienteling strategy related to the customer’s own mobile experience?

Whether you are considering a native application or responsive Web on the smartphone, a good clienteling strategy should work hand-in-hand with the mobile experience in your customer’s hand.

Whether it is to socially promote a particular purchase or research a product, these experiences should be integrated into your clienteling approach.

Why not have the customer’s mobile phone both greet the customer as well as notify the clienteling app when your valued client enters the store?

There has never been greater urgency than now for luxury brands to adopt mobile clienteling as a way to demonstrate brand value, maintain their reputation and image, and increase customer loyalty.

Doug Stephens, aka “The Retail Prophet,” recently predicted that “a new breed of experiential retailers will use their physical stores to perfect the consumer experience across categories of products. They will define the ideal experiential journey, employ expert ‘product ambassadors’ and technology to deliver something truly unique, remarkable and memorable.”

If luxury retailers do not get on board, they will soon be eclipsed by mainstream retailers – and that is not good for appearances or the bottom line.

Luxury purchases are driven in equal parts by both the quality of the product and customer emotion about the entire buying experience.

Clienteling significantly enhances that experience. The time for mobile clienteling is right now.


Luxury Brands Play Catch-Up: Ralph Lauren, Hermes, Burberry

By Sarah Mahoney
Tuesday, October 18

When it comes to shopping the latest looks from luxury fashion brands, the rich aren’t so different than the rest of us: They want what’s new, and they want it now. But that drive for instant gratification has rattled the fashion world’s sturdiest brands, as they continue the struggle to reinvent themselves in a “but Amazon can get it to me tomorrow” world. 

That has contributed to sluggish sales in luxury goods, and many brands are trying to change their game. Ralph Lauren, in the midst of a massive turnaround effort, had its first shoppable runway show last month, for example. So did Burberry, which is pushing both its digital and straight-to-consumer efforts hard amid declining revenues decline. And even Hermès, one of the most elite luxury labels, is reported to be opening a pop-up shop in Nordstrom in an effort to broaden its appeal.

The direct-to-consumer trend is continuing to shake up the fashion world, with L2 Digital — a market research company — reporting that last month, 21% of the brand’s participating in New York Fashion  Week had some way of making collections shoppable, either online, in stores, or both.

“It’s a mixed bag,” says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute. “There are consumers who definitely like clothes right off the runway and into their hands. But there are also some brands who are saying, ‘we need time and we do it right.’ And vive la difference.” But when brands do decide to pursue new avenues? “Then they need to execute it brilliantly,” he tells Marketing Daily. “If you’re going to act like H&M or Zara, you better have a supply chain that good.”

Because luxury fashion brands “derive their value from scarcity and exclusivity, the current fashion cycle is unsustainable and dissonant with what the consumer wants,” reports L2. “In response, brands are starting to experiment with DTC models that cut out the wholesaler and focus sales operations in-store and through e-commerce.”

And of course, marketing is still important. Ralph Lauren just launched a new campaign,  shot by fashion photographer Steven Meisel, that highlights “ten iconic pieces worn by ten iconic women,” the company says, including Vittoria Ceretti, Margaret Qualley, Stella Tennant, Fei Fei Sun, and Lady Jean Campbell. The collection includes such classics as the $2,700 peacoat, and its $1,000 black cashmere turtleneck.

The ads support the September collection that was, in a first for the brand, shown in real-time so consumers could buy the clothes right off the runway. The fiercer focus on the evolution of the ways women want to shop, including a more sophisticated digital offering, is key to the turnaround plan the company launched earlier this year, following steep losses and declining revenue.

Burberry, too, is struggling, but counting on digitally adroit young fashionistas to pull it along. In its just-released financial results, it says retail sales increased 2%, despite on overall revenue decline of 4%. The store gains came, it says, as a result of brand elevation efforts. And consumers seem responsive to the see-now-buy-now approach of its recent runway show.

And Hermès, not the kind of brand that would normally stoop to the level of mere department store, is opening its first-ever store-within-store project, partnering with Nordstrom. Luxury Retailerreports the pop-up shop is selling silks and jewelry.

Pedraza thinks it can be a good fit, as long as the goods “are more affordable and very now. Nordstrom is a full-price store with a reputation of impeccable service. And in terms of similarity in ethics and social responsibility, this can be a good partnership.”

But luxury sales may not pick up anytime soon. Bain & Co., which tracks luxury spending around the world, says it expects the affluent to continue to be stingy, and that the gain of just 1% in the first quarter of the year is likely to continue throughout the year.


October 7, 2016

Coach turns 75: Brand Remains True to Its Heritage While Finding New Inspiration From American Culture — Past and Present
October 7, 2016
By Melissa Magsaysay

What do iconic American references like Elvis Presley, exploring the Midwest by train and Southern California’s skate and surf culture have to do with handbags, clothes and accessories from Coach?

Stuart Vevers, executive creative director at Coach, says those American staples have been key influences in his work at the fashion brand, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a new book, a revamped fragrance and a fashion collaboration with Disney.

The nostalgia isn’t completely out of left field given that the New York-based company’s founders, Miles and Lillian Cahn, were initially inspired by the supple leather and stitching of a baseball glove when they were first creating bags in 1941. But for Vevers, who was born in Yorkshire, England, and who lived and worked in Europe as a designer before taking the helm at Coach in 2013, the fascination with Americana is paramount in disrupting current ideals of luxury in fashion.

“We are living in a world where people aren’t aspiring to stereotypical images of luxury,” says Vevers, who worked at Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Loewe. “Luxury to the next generation could mean a T-shirt or fun playful backpack, and I want Coach to stand at the forefront of the new codes of luxury that are being created right now.”

A look inside the new book “Coach, A Story of New York Cool,” written by Joel Dinerstein and designed by Fabien Baron.

A look inside the new book “Coach, A Story of New York Cool,” written by Joel Dinerstein and designed by Fabien Baron.

The designer has been implementing plenty of playful elements that still manage to feel incredibly elevated across the men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, bag, shoe and leather accessories categories offered by Coach.

This level of flexibility to adapt to the ebb and flow of fashion and luxury are part of what has kept Coach relevant for more than seven decades.

“Coach has stayed true to its core values and yet has remained flexible to the needs of not only American women but also aspirational women worldwide,” says Milton Pedraza, chief executive of Luxury Institute, a brand consulting agency based in New York that has worked with Coach and other companies. “Its designs adapt to the changing tastes of contemporary women.”

Bold color, metal rivets, floral appliqué and embellished patchwork have reinvigorated bags, which still stand on a foundation of quality leather, brass toggle hardware and detailed stitching — all hallmarks of the brand.

The fall 2016 ready-to-wear has the same unselfconscious nature and everyday appeal of the bags, seen in Western-style studding on a leather jacket, ’70s-inspired scarf print blouses and crewneck intarsia sweaters emblazoned with a dinosaur named “Rexy.”

It’s what Vevers is calling an “American take on luxury” and what Coach stands to represent through Vevers’ versions of classic staples including varsity jackets, sweatshirts and saddle bags, punctuated by the practical elements that have helped keep Coach a consistent commercial success.

“American values come through freedom and an openness,” Vevers says. “I like that our client works, and our client needs their clothing and accessories to work just as hard.”

Further illustrating this American spirit and marking the brand’s milestone anniversary is a new book out this month called “Coach, A Story of New York Cool” written by Joel Dinerstein and designed by Fabien Baron. The collage-style coffee table tome chronicles the brand from its beginning in a small SoHo workshop in New York with six employees to the 1960s when pioneering sportswear designer Bonnie Cashin took over creative duties. The book also highlights the decades of celebrity fans wearing and carrying Coach clothing and bags.

Additionally, the brand has revamped Coach the Fragrance, a perfume that originally debuted in 2007 and was reintroduced this September, as a scent that is inspired by the energy of New York City, and includes contrasting notes of raspberry, Turkish rose and musk.

From Ali MacGraw to Chloë Grace Moretz — the current face of  Coach — Hollywood has also been an integral part of the brand. “I think it has to be authentic,” says Vevers about Coach’s appeal and relationships with celebrities. “I like connecting with people I admire for their work or style, but the authenticity is crucial. It’s just like with our clients; it has to be natural.”

The diverse mix of front-row celebrities at the spring 2017 show in New York included Courtney Love, Moretz and “Stranger Things” stars Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown and echoed the designer’s ethos for bringing a broad set of cultural references from music, film and art together.

“I really want, with the music and culture references, a more modern vision of America,”  Vevers says. “Diversity is modernity, and as a designer, I want to include all of America in Coach.”

From original silhouettes of the 1950s to Coach staples festooned with C logos and newer, popular styles like the “Swagger” and “Rogue” bags, the house has set out to demonstrate the breadth of its work as well as its customer service. Check out the new Craftsmanship Bar at the Rodeo Drive flagship store in Beverly Hills.

The fourth of its kind in North America, Coach’s Craftsmanship Bar is part mini museum, showcasing bags from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and part personalized customer service with cleaning, customization, monogramming and product repair.

The range of design from the last 75 years is clear when canvassing the display at the Craftsmanship Bar. Look for a ’70s saddle bag that has the wear of a baseball glove and a “Swagger” bag covered in cheeky varsity patches.

The styles are all vastly different, but perhaps it’s the level of accessibility in the price point and functional design that has made Coach familiar and aspirational to buyers for the last 75 years.

For Vevers, the formula for creating a successful collection that is steeped in the brand’s seven-plus decade heritage but still appealing to a new millennial audience is completely about relatability. It’s about those iconic American references of Elvis and wide-open plains now injected with flashes of visual inspiration the designer gathers while scrolling Instagram.

“My magpie is that of a digital magpie,” Vevers says. “The world is moving fast, and to be relevant, design needs to be connected to the street.”


The World’s Best Fashion Brands Aren’t Exactly The Ones You’re Thinking Of
October 7, 2016
By: Max Berlinger

Turns out people like really expensive things and really cheap things.

Each year the consultancy agency Interbrand releases its Best Global Brands list, a ranking of the world’s most valuable brands. And, according to their sizable data, it turns out that people like really, really fancy things and, conversely, really, really affordable things. Cool.

According to this year’s power list, French luxury label Louis Vuitton comes in at number one of the brands categorized in the luxury and retail sectors. Now here’s where things get interesting: the next two brands are mass labels that specialize in affordable versions of trendy runway pieces, H&M (no. 2) and Zara (no. 3). And then, to make it a bit of a luxury sandwich, the next brand on the list is Hermès.


Interbrand uses a three-pronged approach to ranking the brands, a mix of their financial performance, their ability to create loyalty, and the power that the brand’s name has, and gathers data from a variety of sources, including Reuters and Twitter. As Rebecca Robins, Global Director at Interbrand and co-author of Meta-luxury puts it in an article for Harper’s Bazaar: “The sweet spot is where integrity of product meets integrity of brand experience.”

When you pull back and look at all brands, Apple, naturally, ranks as number one overall, followed by Google. Interestingly, if you add the category Sporting Goods to the fashion mix, Nike actually comes out on top, beating even Louis Vuitton. “Many of the luxury brands have been going through various transitions over the past few years and the values of their brands are reflective of that,” Robins tells GQ. “In the context of the ‘luxury reset’, the growth is coming from brands who are working through those transitions with brand at the gravitational centre of the business.”

Interestingly, there’s no overlap with the findings earlier this year from the Luxury Institute of which brands men with discretionary income choose to buy. That study found Calvin Klein came out on top, followed by Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Burberry, and Giorgio Armani. Our official stance is why are we rating and ranking and numbering all these brands? Each one has a special place in our hearts and our pocketbook.



India’s Oberoi Values Personalization With New Amenity Push
October 7, 2016
By: Brielle Jaekel

Oberoi Hotels & Resorts is treating guests who stay in top-tier suites to the celebrity treatment with a series of amenities representative of experiences only VIPs receive.

The Indian hospitality brand is launching a series of initiatives to make its top-tier customers feel as though they are celebrities, with programs such as a 24-hour butler service, luxury transportation to and from the airport and unique amenities at its various locations. Oberoi is hoping to see more suite reservations by creating an enticing vacation and travel experience.

“We want every guest at Oberoi Hotels & Resorts to feel like a VIP, and we’re excited to unveil these special amenities for those who stay in our top suites,” said Abhishek Panshikhar, General Manager, The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra.

An Oberoi property in Rajvilas, Jaipur, India

An Oberoi property in Rajvilas, Jaipur, India

Celebrity treatment

Oberi locations are now equipped with various amenities fit for celebrities, but available to anyone who books their top-tier suites. The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur is providing guests with to-and-from airport transportation that emphasizes luxury in an Audi Q5/Q7.

When guests arrive at the hotel, custom cocktails and beverages are provided along with a fresh flower garland. Special meals cooked by a resort chef, fruit baskets, nut boxes and flower arrangements are all available within the suites, as is Oberi’s 24-hour butler service.

Guests of the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra are all greeted by the general manager and a warm towel, in addition to custom cocktail and garland. While personalized chef-cooked meals are not available in-room, the nut boxes, fruit bowls and cookies still are, as well as the 24-hour butler service.

The Oberoi, Mumbai provides individuals staying in its Presidential Suite with a special escort from the airport including transportation in a Mercedes S Class fitted with sparkling water and cold towels. Passengers will also be able to view the room service menu during their trip to the hotel for speedy food delivery.

Guests staying at Mumbai will also receive Oberoi’s garland, welcome beverage, warm towels and butler service upon arrival. However, the Mumbai location will offer monogrammed pillows, hand towels and bath robes for the Presidential Suite.

The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur also provides a chauffeur service to and from the airport, but offers a private boat ride across Lake Pichola to the resort, equipped with chai tea, as well. Udaipur’s Oberoi resort features amenities similar to its other locations, but puts a local spin on the program for a more personal touch.

For instance, when guests arrive they will receive a traditional native welcome, which includes a rose petal shower Aartu and Tikka ceremony. The ceremony is meant to ensure good health, well-being and happiness during their stay.

Guests will also receive orchids, turndown service, prepared baths with rose petals and candles and a personalized note from the general manager to say goodbye.

Travel industry insights

Personalization and amenities similar to what Oberoi has added are important in appealing to the affluent consumer of today.

The luxury travel industry still yields high results with affluent consumes going on more than triple the number of trips average households take, according to a report prepared by Resonance.

General consumers in the United States take only an average of 4.8 trips a year, compared to the wealthiest 5 percent who take more than 14.3 trips per year. The luxury travel sector alone pulls in roughly $390 billion each year, with each trip costing $3,115 per family member (see more).

Hilton-owned Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts climbed the ranks in terms of international brand awareness, despite consumers spending less time traveling, according to the Luxury Institute.

JW Marriott, InterContinental, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt and The Ritz-Carlton have maintained their places as the most visited hotel brands, reported last year and this year in the LBSI Global Hotel study. However, affluent consumers are cutting down on hotel stays with modest decrease in number of nights stayed (see more).

“From the moment our guests arrive, we aim to provide the most attentive, personalized service possible so that everyone feels at ease and at home while staying with us.”


September 27, 2016

Meet the Third Cohort of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program
September 27, 2016

PALO ALTO, Calif.Sept. 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — The Latino Business Action Network (LBAN) has selected 77 Latino entrepreneurs from across the United States to be a part of the third cohort of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program (SLELP3). SLELP3 is a six-week program jointly developed by Stanford faculty and LBAN.  Its focus is to help Latino business owners scale – i.e., grow – their businesses. As part of this immersive six-week program, SLELP3 provides participants with valuable concepts and frameworks, enhanced access to capital, personal mentorship from successful entrepreneurs and investors, and a better understanding of the capital resources necessary to grow their businesses, create jobs, and build a stronger economy.

The applicant selection criteria was developed to rigorously filter very early stage companies and target those companies that have received market and/or investor validation. To be considered for this program, the preferred criteria for applicants is to have either generated $1 million in revenue or have raised $500k in funding. As part of the six-week program, the entrepreneurs will take a customized online course based on curriculum developed by two Stanford Professors; Huggy Rao, Stanford Graduate School of Business Faculty and Bob SuttonStanford School of Engineering Faculty, who are internationally recognized as experts in scaling businesses.

SLELP3 business owners are part of an elite and talented group of innovators and business leaders whose drive, work ethic, and ambition will help to grow our economy and communities across the United States.

See the businesses below:

About Stanford University and LBAN Collaboration 

LBAN and Stanford University collaborate on programs for Latino Entrepreneurs including the research focused Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI) and the Stanford Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program (SLELP). LBAN endeavors to make America stronger by empowering Latino entrepreneurs to grow large businesses through entrepreneurship research, education, and networks. LBAN’s ultimate goal is to double the number of $100 million and $1 billion Latino owned businesses by 2020.

To find out more about our programs, visit


September 22, 2016

Top Luxury Hotels Remain Leaders Despite Drop In Global Travel
By: Brielle Jaekel
September 22, 2016

Hilton-owned Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts is climbing the ranks in terms of international brand awareness, despite consumers spending less time traveling, according to the Luxury Institute.

JW Marriott, InterContinental, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt and The Ritz-Carlton have maintained their places as the most visited hotel brands, reported last year and this year in the LBSI Global Hotel study. However, affluent consumers are cutting down on hotel stays with modest decrease in number of nights stayed.

“While the top scoring brands continue to do very well year-over-year, the Waldorf Astoria has done phenomenally well in improving international brand awareness of their properties over the last several years,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute.

“There are no real surprises. We expected that consumers may travel less, and the research shows that affluent consumers spent two nights less on average than they did last year,” he said.

“As occurred, we expected a slight pullback in nights spent and that can be attributed to macro-economic factors that have negatively effected global tourism.”


Travel insights

As the top hotels remain in their places as the leaders, JW Marriott saw a significant increase in visitors from the United States and China. However, affluent travelers from France visited Club Med, Le Meridien and Sofitel the most, and Kempinski Hotels was frequented by German consumers.

There has been a slight drop in the nights stayed due to economic influences, which coincides with insight revealing that most affluent consumers are staying in the hotel brands for vacation and leisure. On average, total night stays dropped from 19 to 17 in one year.

However, U.S. consumers were the only demographic that has seen an increase in the number of nights in luxury hotels. Europe had the biggest impact with German consumers dropping down to an average 19 nights from 26, and French travelers from 23 to 19.

Another report from the China Outboard Tourism Research Institute revealed that international markets saw a 16 percent increase in Chinese outbound travelers, but closer to home, in Greater China, there was a 7 percent decline in tourism for the first half of 2016.

COTRI found that there were 64 million border crossings from Mainland China between January and June of 2016, resulting in a growth rate of 3.4 percent. Much of the luxury market relies on Chinese outbound travelers who visit brand stores and duty free shops to make high-end purchases as a method to avoid the high tax at home (see more).

Affluent customers traveling for leisure for one week or more make up more than 31 percent of global travelers. About 62 percent travel with their spouses, only 16 percent travel alone and 11 percent are with business companions.


Winning consumers

Hotel brands that create the ultimate luxury experience by tapping into on-site associates win out. Employees that go above and beyond for guests can make or break the brand.

However for ski resorts, the opulence and amenities available are helpful but do not protect the sector from customers’ hunting for a deal, with buyers appreciating a good value, according to a separate report by Knight Frank.

Affluent customers who enjoy homes in the mountains and ski resorts as second residences still want to be sure that they are getting a good deal, with interest in locations that offer great values such as Chamonix and Saint Gervais, France, both near the base of Mont Blanc in the Swiss Alps, strengthening. Customers want worth and appeal for their purchases and investments, making villages such as Val d’Isere Verbier, Switzerland and Chamonix best-in-class considerations (see more).

“As we see from the five top-rated hotel brands, achieving a high LBSI score strongly correlates with the ability to charge a premium price,” Mr. Pedraza said. “One thing we know from other Luxury Institute research is that while the locations, facilities and amenities are important they do not provide the ultimate competitive advantage.

“The ultimate advantage is the experience with the brand ambassadors in how well they develop a personal emotional connection with guests during their stay,” he said.


September 19, 2016

The Big Business Of Red Carpet Bling
By: Rina Raphael
September 18, 2016

Jewelry companies of all sizes compete to get their baubles on the right celebrities at the right time—including the Emmys.

Actress Cate Blanchett is celebrated for her unconventional, avant-garde awards-show fashion. But at the 2015 Oscars, it was her jewelry that stole the red carpet show: She paired a long, simple black Maison Margiela gown with a Tiffany & Co. turquoise and diamond necklace. It dominated fashion headlines and soon thereafter, inspired knock-offs and Etsy reimaginings. Us Weeklypromoted a $75 Blanchett-inspired jewelry giveaway.

“We didn’t plan on it,” says Blanchett’s stylist, Elizabeth Stewart. “But it worked.”

When it comes to Hollywood baubles, the motto is generally, “Go big or go home.” To compete with couture gowns and Cinderella moments, top jewelers such as Bulgari, Chopard, and Forevermark go all out to secure their celebrity endorsements. It’s a lengthy, complicated loaning process, and a chance at worldwide brand recognition.

Sometimes celebrities or stylists are paid to wear the accessories, with compensation potentially hovering in the hundreds of thousands. Sometimes the jeweler will “thank” the star by “gifting” them jewelry. Sometimes the generous one-night loan is the sum total. It varies, and those involved are historically mum on the transaction specifics.

[Photo: Flickr user Kyle Garrity]

[Photo: Flickr user Kyle Garrity]


It starts with the stylist, the unsung maestro of all Hollywood red carpets. Stewart, whose clients also include Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and January Jones, starts with the dress, then moves her way to accessories. “Often, the jewelry comes last,” she says, but stresses that it is “very important” to create a full look.

The next step is the insurance companies. Jewelers might provide the insurance, but most commonly, stars already have existing relationships with insurance agents and a policy that seamlessly weaves in additional loans.

“Individuals of some level of wealth normally have some kind of jewelry coverage in place,” explains Janece White, vice president, North American underwriting and jewelry specialist of Chubb Personal Risk Services, which counts high-profile celebrities as clients. Even if it’s just for what she calls “the basics”—their engagement rings or earrings—deep-pocketed celebrities often get covered.

If the client is a “good customer” who has had a relationship with the agent for years, Chubb will offer the additional coverage, but they need the specifics of the loaned pieces and how they will be stored, transported, and secured. “It’s usually not just one piece of jewelry,” White says. “The stylist brings back a number of pieces—sometimes a couple million dollars worth.”

White and her associates are available throughout the days leading up to awards shows, waiting on frantic last-minute calls from clients who might need to insure a $5 million diamond choker. It’s a frenzy. They also act as consultants, offering recommendations on services such as security firms that can provide armored trucks and guards, which could run well over $20,000.

“Would it be acceptable to throw [the jewelry] in the back of a cab? No,” White says. “Would it be acceptable to have [the client] come with someone very secure to take the items back by personal car? Yes.” Most clients, says White, take good care of their loans, because “they want to borrow something again the next award season.”

With all that prep work, there is still no guarantee the star will wear a specific item. A stylist has multiple looks on hold in the dressing room hours prior to an event, and sometimes last-minute decisions occur.

“I can’t tell you how many times the backup dress becomes the dress,” said Stewart. “You really don’t know until it’s all put together.” And if the gown changes, so too will the accessories. Stewart cites a number of reasons why one or both might not make the final cut: hair, makeup, and even just one’s mood.


For many companies, the goal is to tie themselves to the right star whose name signifies aspirational wealth and glamour.

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in terms of determining who that million-dollar actor is going to be walking down the red carpet,” says style expert Anna De Souza. “It’s not about selling that particular piece—it’s about brand recognition.” Celebrities are repeatedly asked, “Who are you wearing?” with designer names appearing in celebrity and fashion magazines for weeks thereafter.

For stars, borrowing baubles is a mark of success. And consumers understand that the bigger the star, the bigger the bauble.

“Beyond the event itself, media will cover different celebrity looks—i.e., who wore what, not to mention a huge social media audience weighing in on each celebrity look, garnering mentions for brands,” says Crosby Noricks, a fashion brand strategist and founder of PR Couture. “When a company like Tiffany’s or Bulgari does a product-placement deal with a celebrity, if they get the right star, it can certainly add a valuable spotlight to their product, image, and brand.” It can also bolster a certain campaign. Cate Blanchett’s turquoise homerun served to promote Tiffany & Co.’s Blue Book collection.

Snagging an international star is paramount. This is especially true for smaller jewelry companies trying to secure placement in bigger retailers or to enter a new market, like Dubai. Being able to approach new opportunities with the claim that “Jennifer Lopez wears our jewelry” can be the ticket in.

Labels have their own specific needs and who they want to reach. For publicly traded companies like Tiffany & Co., which boasts over 300 stores and sells high and more modestly priced collections, it makes sense for them to place their products on a wide range of stars, ranging from Oscar winners to TV actresses, at various industry events. Chopard wants to master the red carpet, so you might see their products at movie premieres, in addition to awards shows.

Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie sells colorful jewelry with whimsical, intricate imagery like flowers and butterflies. Price points range from $100,000 to $7 million. The brand was relatively unknown until Madonna wore an Anna Hu Haute Joaillerie diamond cross pendant necklace to the 2009 Met Gala. “That put Anna on the global map,” says Carineh Martin, the company’s chief marketing officer.

Today, Hu’s styles adorn A-listers such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Emily Blunt—but only at the three high-profile events: the Oscars, the Met Gala, and the Cannes Film Festival. The designer takes the rare approach of relying on a select few celebrities to foster an image of exclusivity.

“It has to be the top event, the top actress, with the top jewels, otherwise it’s just not interesting for us,” Martin says. “If that means only one or two a year, that’s all we’re interested in.”

It makes sense, considering the brand has only one store, and most sales are private custom orders. That’s precisely what a certain clientele wants—the sense that they’re wearing something rare and special. “How can you be exclusive when you have 600 stores worldwide?” Martin says.

“We are about being private jewelers to a very small echelon of clientele, so everything we do is with that in mind, including our red carpet approach,” she says. “We could dress a lot more people and have a lot more awareness, but when you’re not readily available all over the world, what’s all that awareness going to do for you? We’d rather be known by fewer people, but the type of people who respond to our jewels.”


AS SEEN ON . . .

There are those who want exactly what the stars are wearing. Fine jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth has been contacted while celebrities were still modeling her designs on the red carpet. She sold two emerald cuffs, each at $150,000, while they were still on Julianne Moore’s wrist at the 2013 Met Gala.

Iconic moments can immediately help sell a style. Gwyneth Paltrow went down in fashion history following her 1999 Oscar win, when she clutched her gold statue in a pink Ralph Lauren gown and a 40-carat Harry Winston diamond necklace. The jewelry house immediately sold a few necklaces in the same style, reportedly at over $100,000 each. One buyer was Paltrow’s own father, who gave his daughter the jewels as a gift.

As for how this visibility affects companies’ bottom lines, that’s a complicated equation. According to Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a consulting firm serving more than 1,000 luxury and premium goods, what consumers consider the most prestigious and what consumers actually buy don’t always align. In a recent study, the Luxury Institute found that households earning over $200,000 were most familiar with the following brands, in descending order: Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Bulgari, Gucci, Chanel, Harry Winston, De Beers, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mikimoto, and David Yurman.

And here’s where they spent their money: Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Alexis Bittar, David Yurman, Gucci, Bulgari, Chanel, Boucheron, Mikimoto, and Judith Ripka. The two categories diverge, since consumers can’t always afford what they’re familiar with, but they still want designer.

Consumers with household incomes under $75,000 tend to own items from Tiffany (76%), Bulgari (32%), and David Yurman (21%).

“Millennials are very aspirational,” Pedraza says, noting their constant media intake of celebrity fashion and culture. They’re attuned to researching a product or a celebrity they want to emulate. “They are now in the know.” They might only buy a pendant necklace or bracelet, but they’re still buying.

The majority of Americans don’t have the means to even consider buying a pricey piece of jewelry that was seen on the red carpet, but there are other opportunities to partake in the luxury sector.

“The average TV viewer isn’t going to go out and purchase [the exact item], but they might pick up a pair of sunglasses, perfume, or wallet in order to align themselves with an aspirational brand worn by their favorite celebrity,” Noricks says.

Buying the jewelry isn’t necessarily the point of these celebrity endorsements. It’s to get the brand on your mind—for future purchases. They’re in this for the long haul.

As style expert Anna De Souza says, “It goes way beyond the 10-minute walk down the red carpet for these brands.”


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