Luxury Institute News

June 24, 2015

7 Insights Into Today’s Jewelry Shoppers

JCK Magazine
By: Rob Bates
June 23, 2015

Even shoppers used to shopping online can be turned into loyal brick-and-mortar customers with the right experience, according to a new survey of high-income shoppers from the Luxury Institute.

Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, says that retailers today need to focus on building relationships—both on- and offline. His survey quizzed consumers with an average income of $289,000, and $2.9 million average net worth.

Among its findings:

—Women still prefer to browse for jewelry at stores.

Forty-nine percent of female respondents prefer to shop in store before deciding what jewelry to buy, and are more likely to enter stores without a sense of what they want or looking online.

“Woman are still very open to having an experience,” says Pedraza. “Jewelry isn’t a commodity product. Jewelry and watches are more experiential than other luxury goods. Consumers may research online but they still want to experience your store. They place great value in the discovery process.

—That’s less true for men.

By contrast, only 21 percent of men relied primarily on in-store shopping to make a decision. Twenty-eight percent of watch-buying men said they entered stores knowing precisely what to buy. Still, 37 percent of men wanted assistance from sales staff for jewelry purchases; 33 percent felt the same way about watches. But 38 percent preferred to get the information online.

“Most men don’t enjoy the experience of buying in a jewelry store,” says Pedraza. “They are more tightly focused and less willing to change. Though that is mostly older men; I’d say young men are more likely to change their mind. Of course those are stereotypes but they are still valid.”

—The in-store experience is more critical than ever.

“Customers enjoy the in-store experience, but we have so many retailers that are drone-like and similar,” he says. “Retailers have to be Disney. A long time ago there were just amusement parks and then Disney reinvented them. Luxury retailers have to reinvent themselves.”

That means stocking unique products and upgrading your associates, plus trying to make your store look and seem different. He points to Warby Parker’s innovative new eyeglass shops, whose sales per square foot now rival Tiffany’s, as an example.

—A key part of your store experience: Your store associates.

One quarter of women shoppers say they want a sales associate to help them purchase. But the quality of the associate makes the difference, Pedraza says.

“The industry is hiring people as opposed to selecting people,” he says. “We need to help associates to build skills, and compensate them for the long-term. I was talking to someone and he was complaining his people leave. I said of course they leave, they don’t feel respected, they don’t feel they are valued. If you pay a little extra you can have them really engage with customers and help build the brand.”

—Customers want great service, regardless of channel.

“You can’t stop people from going online,” he says. “It’s all about building relationships, no matter what the channel is. It’s making people feel special. You can create wonderful long distance relationships with online shoppers, the same way we do in our personal lives.”

—There are no “tricks” to servicing Millennails.

“We say millennials are so different,” Pedraza says. “But increasingly they are the same, especially as they get into their 30s, and they have kids and aging parents.

“So it’s not as much about treating millenials differently,” he adds. “It’s about treating them as individuals. It’s about digging deep. I always ask millennials if they want sales associates to help them and they do. But they mostly see them as unprepared and not trustworthy.”

—Price is not the most important factor.

“There is still a tremendous opportunity not to sell on discount,” Pedraza says, “but to sell on value, craftsmanship, design, a story, and the engagement with another human being. All of those elements are not about price. There is still a tremendous opportunity for stores to really forge relationships with consumers.”

Source: http://www.jckonline.com/2015/06/23/7-insights-todays-jewelry-shoppers

June 18, 2015

Smartwatch debate has strapped timepieces back on wearers’ wrists

Luxury Daily
By: Jen King
June 18, 2015

NEW YORK – Panelists during the Watch Collectors’ Roundtable discussion agreed that the introduction of the smartwatch, though originally daunting, may be the best thing to happen to the traditional Swiss watch industry since the quartz.

Held on June 16 at the Aaron Faber Gallery, the “Will smartwatches disrupt the Swiss watch industry” panel debated whether or not the smartwatch will have lasting impact with different perspectives from timepiece sellers, collectors and manufacturers to proponents of wearable technology. Although not agreeing on all fronts, the panelists expressed a sense of gratitude toward Apple, and others in the tech space, for putting traditional watches back into the conversation.

“I cannot even count how many hours of debate [smartwatches have] sparked in our offices, with our members and prospects,” said Randy Brandoff, CEO and founder of Eleven James, New York.

“No matter what one thinks about the technology of today, and where one thinks it’s going in the future, if you’re a lover of wristwatches, mechanical or otherwise, I think the aggregate takeaway is that this is a good thing,” he said. “More than anytime I can remember everyone I know has sparked up a conversation about watches, what this means, where are they going and how useful are they.”

Mr. Brandoff acted as the moderator for the panel discussion.

Ticking talk

The panel discussion delved into the fundamental issues and questions surrounding the wearable category and how, if at all, the technology will affect traditional Swiss watch brands.

Each panelist said that mechanical timepieces have been worn as a way to distinguish someone from a crowd, but Apple Watch, and others like it, will become commonplace with only the high-end model, the Edition, being seen as unique.

But, the wearable model is not as practical or as sound of an investment as a mechanical watch because the technology within will become outdated. In comparison, the technology in a timepiece has gone relatively unchanged for hundreds of years, resulting in a time-tested science that has yet to become obsolete.

The general consensus among the participants was that watches, smart or otherwise, have placed wearables on the wrists of consumers who otherwise would not have considered a timepiece. This consumer sector is made mostly of millennial consumers who have grown up in a virtual era where timekeeping is predominantly done by mobile and smartphones.

Comparably, the introduction of quartz timepieces in the 1970s had a similar outcome with consumers gravitating toward the new technology and away from traditional mechanical watches. As with in the past, consumer sentiment changed as the first wave of interested wearers matured and returned focus to tradition, but not without testing the technologically advanced waters first.

Also, the panelists felt that the disposable nature of the smartwatch also plays into the quartz comparisons. The quartz watch went from cutting edge technology to available as a free prize at the bottom of a cereal box, thus making the innovation diluted.

Just as with a smartphone, the smartwatch will be void of emotional ties while traditional timepieces can have profound meaning for wearers because they can mark a personal milestone or be passed down along generations.

“I think the whole thing is a bit of an evolution right now,” said Jason Alan Snyder , chief technology officer of Momentum Worldwide, New York. “Horology as the science of measuring time really has nothing to do with wearables.

“Wearables are fundamentally an extension of a smartphone at this time,” he said. “But, really beyond that it’s a small visual signatures of what’s happening on your smartphone right now.

“I think that the social capital derived from wearing a fine Swiss timepiece is very different than social capital derived from wearing a smartwatch. I think those two things may converge at some point in the future, but for right now it’s the difference between luxury and utility, and they’re very different ideas.”

Tech as craftsmanship
For the luxury industry, whether it is timepieces or leather goods, the panelists noted that longevity propels the industry through style, and it is that combination that results in consumer desire.

Additionally, luxury goods are described as made by the hands of skilled artisans, but Sir Jonathan Ive of Apple argued at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference April 22 that all devices, even those in the technology space, have handcrafted elements.

Whether the Apple Watch will prove disruptive to the traditional watch industry has yet to be fully determined, but the degree of quality behind Apple’s first wearable technology is clear (see story). Apple extensively researched the materials for the watch, especially its gold components, and feels that it is a false assumption to assume those in the technology space do not dedicate the same sense of quality to products as traditional luxury houses (see story).

Regardless, mechanical watchmakers have melded traditional horology with technological innovations ranging from synced mobile applications, strapped adaptations and fully connected timepieces.

For example, Swiss watchmaker Breitling is taking the smartwatch concept to new heights with its flight-ready B55 Connected timepiece.

Smartwatches are often synced to a smartphone application that tracks the wearer’s physical activity and sends push notifications (see story). Breitling has taken the opposite approach by having the smartphone service the B55 Connected chronograph to enhance functionality and conviviality.

Also, LVMH-owned Tag Heuer announced its creative partnership between its manufacturer, Google and Intel at Baselworld 2015.

The partnership signifies a new era of collaboration between Swiss watchmakers and Silicon Valley to escalate the expertise of each brand whether it be watchmaking, software or hardware. From the first utterance of wearables, many horologists agreed that collaborative efforts between tradition and technology would yield competitive results (see story).

Since watches are statement pieces of movements and mechanisms, sparking innovation aligns with the heritage of horology and is worth exploring. But, as it stands today the Swiss watch industry will prevail, even becoming more collectable due to wearables.

“I think the category will grow because of Apple’s new entry into the category,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO and founder of The Luxury Institute, New York.

“The Apple Watch will evolve into something more compelling, today it’s not,” he said. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about, however I terms of the luxury Swiss watch industry not only prevailing but thriving as a result.”

Source: http://www.luxurydaily.com/smartwatch-conversation-has-strapped-timepieces-back-on-the-wrist-panel/

June 16, 2015

Meticulous Attention to Detail Elevates Craftsmanship of next Lincoln MKX

Business Wire
June 16, 2015

Overall quality is the top purchase reason for the Lincoln MKX, matching a study that shows 74 percent of wealthy consumers believe superior quality is a luxury product’s most important attribute

The new Lincoln MKX medium crossover, on sale this summer, reflects increased focus on attention to detail and improved craftsmanship in subtle executions.

Advanced models along with a state-of-the-art virtual reality lab are complemented by Lincoln craftsmanship engineers who meticulously pore over vehicles.

Craftsmanship helps define the overall quality of any luxury product. Customers of the Lincoln MKX, for example, cite overall quality as their No. 1 purchase reason for the medium crossover.

“Part of the role of the craftsmanship team is to address the intangible elements of quality – how the space makes you feel, your reaction when you get in and experience the vehicle.”

This desire is seen beyond automotive as well. A study by the Luxury Institute and Epsilon finds that 74 percent of wealthy consumers believe that superior quality is the most important attribute of a luxury product, followed by superior craftsmanship.

The new Lincoln MKX, on sale this summer, elevates craftsmanship by subtly fusing form and function, sometimes in areas not immediately seen or felt by the customer.

“Craftsmanship sits between the worlds of engineering and design,” said Stacy Swank, Lincoln craftsmanship supervisor. “Our role is to bring those worlds together to enhance the experience for the customer. We like to think that if you don’t notice what’s been done, then we’ve done our job.”

Some “hidden” improvements to the 2016 Lincoln MKX include:

  • Foam was added to the wrapped console side panels, providing a softer area for the leg to rest, and also added to the door armrests and steering wheel
  • Extra strength was added to the dead-pedal area – where a driver rests his/her left foot – to make the area more firm
  • Scuff materials in the door and tailgate were upgraded to stainless steel, which is more resistant to scratches and helps maintain a beautiful appearance

The 2016 Lincoln MKX offers available Bridge of Weir® Deepsoft leather, created specifically for Lincoln seating surfaces. Bridge of Weir Deepsoft leather goes through a 16-hour softening process, which is a considerably longer process than most automotive leathers. A hand-sewn and -stitched Wollsdorf® leather-wrapped steering wheel is available on higher-series vehicles.

The center console was redesigned to improve functionality while elevating craftsmanship.

The armrest includes a two-button clamshell execution. This arrangement allows for one button to open only the flocked storage with the tray and the other to open the main bin, creating a versatile storage option.

To increase the crafted appearance, the gooseneck hinge arms that connect the armrest and clamshell tray to the hinge are hidden.

Throughout the interior, the smallest areas were upgraded to higher levels of craftsmanship. To create a cleaner appearance where the A-pillar meets the headliner, for example, a 2.5-mm indent (the thickness of a couple of dimes) was created on the inside of the joint. This allowed the materials to align better.

Lincoln craftsmanship engineers review data at computer-aided-design stations, experience the vehicle in a virtual lab and pore over prototypes to help ensure quality. In the interior of the new Lincoln MKX, for example, there are more than 1,200 interfaces.

Reducing margins and eliminating sharp edges, cut lines, parting lines and visible fasteners – while using genuine wood and metal – drives fit and finish.

“The data, the science and the math help ensure everything fits together correctly and address the tangible elements of quality,” said Swank. “Part of the role of the craftsmanship team is to address the intangible elements of quality – how the space makes you feel, your reaction when you get in and experience the vehicle.”

Source: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150615006393/en/Meticulous-Attention-Detail-Elevates-Craftsmanship-Lincoln-MKX#.VYAfxc7uWXo

June 10, 2015

Pedraza Defines Seven Peak Performance Rules for the Luxury Retailer

The Industry is Rife With Self-Inflicted Wounds

By: Jeff Miller
June 9, 2015

RAPAPORT. Jewelers have tremendous opportunity to grow their operations as long as they do not fail to execute rules of peak performance for customer relationships, according to Milton Pedraza, the CEO of the Luxury Institute. Pedraza defined operating results at luxury retailers so far this year as “dismal”  in large part because the  industry is “rife with self-inflicted wounds” including, clinging to outdated management practices. 

Retailers that do stand to capitalize on future growth are approaching the business from the customers’ perspective and creating systems — and empowered associates — that  together cultivate relationships rather than a rallying cry for a simple sales transaction. Pedraza created seven “Rules For Peak Performance” based upon more than a decade of consulting luxury brands and leading them through  internal transformations. 

The first rule of performance, Pedraza said, is to abandon the corporate silo mentality and create a company culture and mindset that brings all parts together to achieve strong client relationships.

“Luxury brands are broken, literally. Despite all the omnichannel chatter you hear today, brands are broken up into departments and functions more fit for the factories and universities of the industrial era than fashion and luxury retailers of the digital age,” he wrote.

Even if departments or divisions compete for internal interests, Pedraza advised retailers to  place all those silos that touch the client “under one client relationship executive and base compensation — at all levels – on achievement of relationship targets such as client data collection, conversion, recovery, retention and referral rates.”

While competitive benchmarks (and performance metrics) do play a role in business, Pedraza’s second rule is to use that data effectively to create “competitive breakthroughs.” Any situation that involves creativity and human behavior requires differentiation and efficiency, he said.

“One reason that the luxury industry is stalling is a lack of breakthrough innovation. If you want your luxury brand to be highly valuable and profitable you need to move beyond benchmarking. Luxury brands need to go from continuous improvement to discontinuous improvement, which demands breaking the rules through innovation,” he said.

The successful retailer of today has adopted Pedraza’s third rule of performance  and dispensed with  “top-down” management in favor of “front-line empowerment.”   Today’s retail leaders actively engage and empower people in the organization to apply their own talent and passion toward the company’s goal and they recognize that “strong human relationships harness collective wisdom and innate genius to adapt and shape the future,” he noted. Pedraza said that  leaders must “relax into success” and trust people “profusely, to adapt continuously. 

It is an imperfect process, but it works,” Pedraza said, citing three luxury brand executives who trust front-line colleagues to achieve success, while providing the resources needed to deliver:  Angela Ahrendts of Apple Inc., Natalie Massenet of Net-a-Porter and Marco Bizzarri of Gucci.

Pedraza’s fourth rule advised luxury retailers to turn “big data” collection into “actionable wisdom.”  Data itself is not information — without human thought.

Wisdom remains the domain of humans. Injecting human wisdom and empowering your store and call center associates to use their judgment, along with data, to create appropriate one-to-one client communications might not be as sexy as developing an algorithm, or pushing a mass campaign button, but it can be far more effective in building client relationships,” he said. Leverage staff knowledge and know-how to use data in a way that benefits the client and “finally go from doing the wrong thing right, to finally doing the right thing right.”

Pedraza said that selling is not human because, in practice, it reduces “associates to being clerks ringing up transactions instead of brand ambassadors building long-term relationships.” In the fifth rule of performance, he advised retailers to toss the robotic “sales ceremony” concept and focus on three major over-arching qualities: expertise, trustworthiness and generosity.

Let the mass brands do what they will, but luxury brands should immediately discard the aggressive selling playbook and embrace the art and science of high-performance client relationship building, where value is created not from transactions, but from consistently and continuously outperforming and out-behaving the competition,” Pedraza said. “Creating clearly measurable functional and emotional mutual value through a relationship is inherently imperfect, but alternative forms of selling are surely dead.”

Has your store incorporated elaborate, old-school training programs? Rule number six  urges retailers to create master associates.

“It is often said that in a college classroom, the only one learning is the teacher, so part of the secret lies in transforming everyone from a trainee into a learner and a teacher. It is also true that online education, when used in a humanistic and empowering way, such as is done by the Khan Academy, combined with daily one-to-one, metrics-based coaching, peer-to-peer learning techniques and inspirational reinforcement, can make learners, teachers and relationship masters out of all your front-line associates,” he said.

In the seventh rule, Pedraza calls for changing the front-line manager job description to a coach rather than someone who is just  “bossing and selling.” Hire an operations manager to handle the back-office chores; the store manager should be on the floor 90 percent of his time observing and coaching associates and engaging top clients.

Coaching is an art and a science backed by research. Coaching relationship building is a craft that requires expertise.”

“Innovative, empirically-based coaching programs need to be developed to educate our armies of store managers in the art and science of coaching for client relationship building. Until that happens, expect your costs to go up while results falter because more of the same harder won’t work this time around,” Pedraza concluded.

Source : http://www.diamonds.net/News/NewsItem.aspx?ArticleID=52533&ArticleTitle=Pedraza+Defines+Seven+Peak+Performance+Rules+for+the+Luxury+Retailer

June 8, 2015

Cadillac to Sponsor First-Ever New York Fashion Week for Men ‘I Am Very Much Interested in Taking Cadillac Into the World of Fashion’

Advertising Age
June 5, 2015

While the New York womens’ collections have failed to land a car company to replace longtime title sponsor Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac has signed on to become the first-ever automotive backer of New York Fashion Week: Men’s.
The agreement, signed to last two seasons, includes producing a variety of related events and providing Cadillac vehicles as shuttles for attendees. Shinola, Amazon Fashion, and Dreamworks have also been confirmed as sponsors for the fashion week focusing on menswear.

“I am very much interested in taking Cadillac into the world of fashion,” Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said. “The whole idea of beginning to strengthen Cadillac’s position as a lifestyle brand is very much central to our mission. This is a good start.”

“It should be interpreted as a clear statement of intent that we will walk with a heavy footstep in the fashion world,” he said.

In addition to the role during men’s fashion week, Cadillac will continue as a presenting sponsor of New York Men’s Day, a special day formerly set aside during the womenswear-heavy New York Fashion Week to highlight emerging menswear designers. This year, that day will move to July in order to align with NYFW: Men. This will be the second season that Cadillac participates.

The new deal is a telling move from a 113-year-old brand that was reportedly considering the title sponsorship of what was formerly Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which primarily showcases womenswear. Mercedes-Benz ended its title role there earlier this year; the twice-annual event has suffered a deficit of energy since moving from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center in 2010. Many fresh, new fashion brands started showing their wares at off-site locations — often involved with Made Fashion week.

Earlier this year, Cadillac hosted arguably the hottest ticket during New York Fashion Week, when it allowed Public School to show its Autumn/Winter 2015 menswear and womenswear collection in the automaker’s new offices, situated between Tribeca and the West Village.

“We evaluated New York Fashion Week, and we continue to think it’s a worthy property,” Mr. de Nysschen says. “But we weren’t ready to figure out how to fully integrate that into our overallmarketing strategy.”

Cadillac’s decision to sponsor men’s fashion week (which is backed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America), rather than New York Fashion Week, speaks to its desire to return to the cutting edge of culture. In recent years, the automaker has struggled to revitalize its fuddy-duddy image; last year the average buyer of a Cadillac was 59.5 years old, according to the global information company IHS Automotive — much older than the thirties to early forties age range most desirable to luxury brands.

The men’s week sponsorship is totally new — a first. It’s an essential first at that, industry insiders say.

“Cadillac needs that cool, fashionable, ‘gets it’ association to appeal to all consumers, especially Gen Xers and Millennials, who still have a perception of an older brand,” Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of the New York City- based Luxury Institute, said via e-mail from Stockholm.

New York Fashion Week: Men’s runs July 13-16 at Skylight Clarkson Square in downtown Manhattan. A spokesman for Cadillac declined to disclose the amount of the new sponsorship.

Source: http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/cadillac-sponsor-york-fashion-week-men/298907/?utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social

June 5, 2015

When is Luxury not Luxury?

PYMNTS
June 4th, 2015

When Lilly Pulitzer released an exclusive line for Target in April, the entire collection sold out at some physical locations within hours. Good for the designer, good for the store, good for the buyers. A resultant Target website crash aside, good for everybody…right?

“No target shouldn’t collaborate with Lilly just no ew ew ew keep Lilly Pulitzer classy people” – Katherine (@kathhlambert)

“lilly pulitzer collaborating with target is probably the worst news I will get in all of 2015” – Marisa Lyn Friedman (@marisalynnnn)

“Lilly pulitzer for target?! Holy hell What’s next?! the apocalypse??! affordable clothing for the masses!? Disgusting” – Pamela Beesly (@trillprincess47)

Those tweets (the third of which, c’mon, has to at least be partially sarcastic) went out not after “Lilly Pulitzer for Target” was released, but actually when the line was first announced, back in January.

The perception among Lilly Pulitzer devotees outspoken in their disapproval of the Target collaboration, then and now, seems to be that the value of Lilly Pulitzer clothing (and other items) is directly related to their cost. And if the cost goes down (Lilly Pulitzer dresses, which often sell for $200, were available at Target for $40), the brand itself diminishes in value.

It wasn’t only semi-anonymous Twitter users who expressed their disdain for Lilly Pulitzer’s availability to bargain shoppers. In an op-ed for Bloomberg, columnist Megan McArdle – having expressed her belief that Lilly Pulitzer clothes are in fact quite ugly and worn only as a statement by people too rich to care – wrote that “actually wearing Target’s Lilly Pulitzer line…signals the exact opposite of what it is supposed to.” That is to say, if you had to make an effort to buy those clothes, you don’t really deserve to wear them.

Crossovers between high-end brands and mass-market retailers – and the potential image risk to the former – are by no means a new phenomenon. In 1983, the designer brand Halston released a collection exclusive to J.C. Penney, and lost some luxury partnerships as a result.

Halston’s experience aside, the particular backlash to the Lilly Pulitzer/Target collaboration seems a bit out of step with the norm, as Target’s own partnerships with brands like Isaac Mizrahi and, as recently as this year, Missoni, or the recently-announced deal between H&M and Balmain, did not raise such a volume of ire among self-appointed consumer protectors of the luxury ideal.

While there is a risk of brand dilution in partnerships, a study from the Luxury Institute (which, you have to figure, knows a thing or two about this topic) showed that affluent shoppers are not turned off by luxury brands partnering with mainstream brands.

With specific regard to the Lilly Pulitzer/Target hookup, the Harvard Business Review crunched the numbers and viewed the outcome as purely positive.

“Unlike the market saturation and brand extension strategies that have de-valued other luxury brands like Michael Kors and Coach,” states the HBR’s report, “the Target collaboration was a smart move for Lilly Pulitzer. The limited-item, limited time collection allowed the company to expand the brand while maintaining its exclusive appeal.”

Given the success of the arrangement on almost every count (save, again, that unfortunate website overload), it is more than likely that more collaborations between high-end brands and mainstream retailers are on the horizon. Will there be outcries from those who, holding luxury in high regard, look down their noses at mass-market consumers? It’s likely. But it’s just as likely that such complaints won’t have much an impact on the bottom line.

After all, haters gonna hate.

Or, as Lisa Birnbach put it more eloquently in New York Magazine, Lilly Pulitzer herself “would not have approved of her ‘defenders.’” Referencing the Alexander Theroux quote, “Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging,” she concludes that “Pulitzer, despite her last name, was no snob.”

Source: http://www.pymnts.com/news/social-commerce/2015/when-is-luxury-not-luxury/#.VXGbUs9Viko

May 12, 2015

Niche marketers target the 1% – at their peril

Crain’s New York Business
By: Anne Field
May 11, 2015

Last year, Steven Abt decided to overhaul the business model of Caskers, his five-employee craft-spirits company in Manhattan. He focused his marketing on two segments: the original customers who bought curated spirits on Caskers’ website, launched in 2012, and new, even more affluent buyers, who would receive one-on-one, concierge-style service.

A significant portion of his higher-end clientele was interested in such an approach. “It seemed like an opportunity to tap the luxury market, which is growing in general,” he said.

Five months later, the new offering generates about 2% of the firm’s annual revenue, which is just under $10 million, according to Mr. Abt. He expects that figure to increase to as much as 15%, with pretax margins of 20% to 30%, compared with 10% to 20% for the original service.

Mr. Abt is one of a growing number of small-business owners in New York City who are embarking on a two-tiered strategy in their marketing. That’s the result of a variety of factors: healthy demand for high-end goods and services, postrecession changes in the spending habits of affluent consumers, capabilities made possible by digital technology and the need to ramp up volume.

In some cases, it means branching out into a more upscale market, as Mr. Abt has done; in others, expanding from an affluent clientele to the mass market. Regardless, said Daniel Levine, a consumer-trends expert and director of the Manhattan-based Avant-Guide Institute, “these businesses are just following the money.”

Certainly, there’s a time-honored tradition in such sectors as fashion to bring a luxury brand to a mass audience. Take Lilly Pulitzer—known for its connection to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the very rich—which recently began selling a line of clothing in Target stores.

But such a strategy can be a gamble. The premium brand that expands to a less-affluent market may dilute its cachet. Even trickier is going after a higher-end customer. Companies often are reluctant to admit to doing so, fearing they’ll alienate potential buyers in either market. And it can be difficult to convince more elite customers that their product or service is top of the line.

“It’s always harder to go upmarket,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a consumer-trends research firm in Manhattan. He points to British-based Mulberry, a maker of high-end leather bags. It recently stumbled, with declines in profits, during an international expansion that included a flagship store in SoHo; it also increased prices to an ultraluxury level.

Many factors are contributing to the two-tier trend. For small businesses in New York pursuing wealthier customers, one of the most important is postrecession spending by upper-income households. From 2009 to 2012, the total growth in U.S. consumption, adjusted for inflation, happened mostly at the higher end, according to Steven Fazzari, an economist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Two ways to grow

Among those at the bottom 95% of income distribution, there was 2.8% growth during that time period, compared with a 16% increase among the top 5%. That trend has likely continued in recent years, according to Mr. Fazzari. “Growth in consumption has been exclusively driven by the top,” he said.

Companies have also been reacting to significant changes in the buying habits of affluent customers since the recession, according to Jim Taylor, a senior adviser at YouGov.com, a Waterbury, Conn., firm that conducts surveys aimed at better understanding public views about products and current affairs. He is the co-author of The New Elite: Inside the Minds of the Truly Wealthy.

He divides the affluent into two categories: those who seek “worth” and are willing to pay a premium for the things they buy, but go through a rigorous vetting and shopping process. Others are “discounters,” focused more on price. “They derive pride from squeezing their vendors,” he said.

Using technology platforms strategically has also helped some companies expand smoothly from a premium-only service to a larger market. Kofi Kankam co-founded Manhattan-based Admit Advantage seven years ago to provide advice to graduate-school and college applicants. He charges about $200 an hour, with packages running as high as $10,000.

About three months ago, the company launched Admit.me, an online platform that is more affordable to a wide audience. It allows applicants to interact with current students and alumni at schools where they are applying and for admissions offices to search for potential recruits. The basic service is free, but customers can pay about $10 a month for additional capabilities.

“We want to build a scalable business,” said Mr. Kankam, whose profitable, five-employee company has $2 million to $4 million in annual revenue.

The big benefit of expanding to a mass audience is increased volume—especially for small-business owners who have made their name providing time- and labor-intensive, hands-on service. Take Joey Healy, founder of a three-year-old company in Manhattan that bears his name. At Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio, which provides eyebrow-shaping services, Mr. Healy spends about an hour working with each client. He charges $135, up from $85 three years ago.

More recently, Mr. Healy formed a partnership with hair-removal specialist Spruce & Bond to train eight employees in his eyebrow-shaping techniques. They were placed at all four Spruce & Bond stores (three in Manhattan, one in Scarsdale). Called Browlab, the service at the stores costs clients $50; customers also can buy from Mr. Healy’s line of products. “It brings me a new audience,” he said.

Underwriting expansion

About 10% of Mr. Healy’s total revenue, which is “just under $1 million,” now comes from Browlab, but that should increase as Spruce & Bond expands to more locations in Manhattan. Also, in October, Mr. Healy plans to move from his 500-square-foot studio to a bigger space, which will serve as what he calls “more of a flagship” for the profitable company.

In some cases, small businesses regard their premium market as a way to underwrite expansion to a larger mass clientele. Four years ago, Kim Caspare, who has a doctorate degree in physical therapy, opened PHlex Health and Wellness Studio in Manhattan, where she treated patients who were able to pay out of pocket and were mostly referred by doctors.

Since then, she has added such services as acupuncture and meditation and expanded from 1,500 square feet to about 2,200, with plans to increase to 4,600. She recently started treating a new group of patients with insurance coverage, too. Her premium clients, who pay from $160 to $300 an hour for a variety of services, “subsidize everyone else,” said Ms. Caspare. Her profitable, nine-employee company has $1 million to $3 million in annual revenue.

For those adding a higher-end tier, the key is retooling the product or service to make it attractive—and worth the price—to a wealthier clientele. That generally means not moving too far upstream from the company’s original segment.

At Caskers, Mr. Abt had already sold pricey spirits, usually in the $40 to $60 per-bottle range, to affluent buyers. Although his concierge clients have paid as much as $27,000 for an order, “moving to the high end has been a natural extension of the business,” he said.

Another notable example is concierge medicine, through which doctors provide extra services to their patients, who pay an annual fee. About a year ago, Dr. Herbert Insel, a cardiologist and internist in Manhattan, introduced this option.

He charges a $2,500 annual fee to cover services, such as a lengthy physical exam not reimbursed by insurance, longer visits and a direct telephone number to the office. So far, 10% to 15% of patients have signed on. Many of them “are very busy executives in their 40s and 50s who are used to this type of approach,” said Dr. Insel. “They were champing at the bit.”

Source: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150511/SMALLBIZ/150509841/businesse

May 5, 2015

The latest fashion trend among millennial men? Luxury cologne

Fortune
By: Shivani Vora
May 1, 2015

These four luxe fragrances are part of a growing market for younger male shoppers.

Luxury men’s fragrances are no longer mass produced bottles priced in the high double-digits and available at every department store; the latest upscale scents for men are sold selectively at boutiques, usually cost several hundred dollars, and are often blended by hand in small batches with top quality ingredients sourced from around the world.

According to the Chicago-based market research company Euromonitor International, sales in the U.S. of men’s premium fragrances, classified as labels sold in department stores, grew from $1.28 billion in 2004 to $1.47 billion last year. Those numbers are still dwarfed by the $3.7 billion of sales last year for women’s fragrances in the same category, but the segment is growing as it increasingly appeals to younger consumers.

Milton Pedraza, the founder of the New York City-based luxury research and consulting firm The Luxury Institute, says that men, particularly those in the millennial generation, are becoming enamored with expensive colognes in the same way that they are with fashion. “There is a big movement today of men who have spare money to spend are using it to look good, and fragrance is part of that trend,” he said.

Here are four of the latest luxe colognes to try this spring.

Reckless by Roja Parfums

Courtesy of Roja Parfums

British perfumer Roja Dove, who is known for statement-making scents that often run into the four figures, wanted to create a blend for men who aren’t afraid to take risks, and this spicy and fresh rendition is it. Black pepper, musk, clove, and cedar wood are the most prominent notes, and in a nod to the luxury Dove is famous for, the plaque on the bottle is dipped in 18 carat gold while the cap is made of hand-cut Swarovski crystals. $480, bergdorfgoodman.com

Akkad by Lubin

Courtesy of Lubin

Parisian perfumery Lubin, which dates back to the 18th century and handcrafts fragrances today in its Left Bank atelier, introduces this heady scent, the sixth in its collection for men. It’s named for the ancient and powerful empire part of Mesopotamia and has prominent notes of spicy amber, citrusy mandarin and bergamot; woody and rich patchouli and sweet vanilla are also evident but more subtle. $180, luckyscent.com

New York Sandalwood by Bond No. 9

Courtesy of Bond No.9

The more than decade-old New York City-based brand has a cult following for its upscale women’s fragrances, but this new unisex version is sure to win some male fans too. Like the name suggests, warm and smooth sandalwood, derived from the fine-grained wood of tropical trees, is the main attraction while earthy carrot, spicy cardamom and ripe figs figure into the background. Whether you’re into the scent or not, the attractive gold bottle it’s in is a keeper. $330, bondno9.com

Charming California 215 by Krigler Perfumes

Courtesy of Krigler Perfumes

New stores call for new scents—at least according to the more than century-old New York City and Monte Carlo-based label that’s a favorite of royals around the world and introduced this fresh and light fragrance in celebration of the recent opening of its boutique at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. Inspired in part by the jacaranda, a blue flowering tree that flourishes in both Los Angeles and the French Riviera, the perfume is a pick-me-up combination of coriander, orange blossom, green tea and cedar wood. $315, krigler.com

Source: http://fortune.com/2015/05/01/luxury-mens-cologne/

April 20, 2015

Changing Tactics, Apple Promotes Watch as a Luxury Item

NY Times
By: Brian X. Chen
April 19, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple has scrapped its usual routine for releasing products with its new device, the Apple Watch. The company is instead taking a page from the playbook of another industry: luxury goods makers.

Gone are the long lines in front of Apple stores that would accompany a typical iPhone release. Gone is the flooding of a vast worldwide distribution network where Apple would make a new iPhone available. The company is selling the Apple Watch, which goes on sale on Friday, in just nine countries and exclusively through its own channels, not through third-party retailers like Best Buy. In contrast, Apple unveiled new iPhones in September in more than 30 countries and in numerous retail outlets.

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For the first time, Apple is also bringing personal attention and tailoring into the mix through a process for trying on the watch. While consumers typically couldn’t touch a new Apple device until it was publicly available, the company this month began inviting customers into its stores to see, wear and feel the watch.

Evan Weissbrot, a 33-year-old watch collector, experienced the sneak preview firsthand. After he arrived at the Apple Store in SoHo on April 11, an Apple employee took Mr. Weissbrot to a station and unlocked a drawer containing a variety of the watches. In between small talk, the employee showed Mr. Weissbrot different straps and cases — and even let him check out the gold watch, which costs more than $10,000 and typically requires a separate appointment to try on.

The amount of personal attention and the allure of the process “was a rip directly from a high-end watch store,” Mr. Weissbrot said.

All of this echoes the tactics of luxury goods makers like Burberry and Hermès. Giving consumers an early peek before they buy things is a familiar strategy in the fashion industry — as, increasingly, is tempting early adopters with the bonus of circumventing the shop. When Burberry shows new lines of clothing and handbags on the runway, the company lets customers order select items immediately after the show for delivery even before the products arrive in stores.

Apple also appears to be mimicking the scarcity-creates-desire approach, one that has served Hermès well with items like the Birkin and Kelly bags. They are rarely in stock, and customers sometimes wait months to receive one. That strategy has also worked for companies like Ferrari, which has loyal customers who pay thousands of dollars just to get on a list to wait as long as a year to own the next hot Italian sports car.

“They’re definitely treading on new territory,” Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the research firm the Luxury Institute, said of Apple. While high-end fashion brands, jewelers and luxury car brands often use selectivity and personal attention to generate interest when a product makes its debut, it is new for Apple, a company whose products typically speak to an enormous consumer audience as opposed to a privileged few, he said.

The strategy is a deliberate move by Timothy D. Cook, chief executive of Apple, and Angela Ahrendts, the company’s retail chief and a former chief executive of Burberry, to lay the groundwork for a successful introduction of the watch. The watch is the first entirely new device Apple has introduced under the leadership of Mr. Cook, who took the helm in 2011, and brings the company into the fashion market, as well as the luxury market, with the 18-karat gold version of the watch.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
In a recent letter to Apple’s retail employees, Ms. Ahrendts said the company needed to come up with the preview approach for selling the watch because “there’s never been anything quite like it.” In the memo, which was cited by the blog 9to5Mac, she said it was unlikely that people could buy the watch at Apple stores before June because of supply constraints.

An Apple spokeswoman, Amy Bessette, said Ms. Ahrendts was not available to comment on the retail strategy for the watch.

Apple’s top brass has been energetically promoting the watch over the last seven months, granting interviews about the creation of the device to The New Yorker and Wired. Apple has also invested significantly in advertising, spending an estimated $36 million since March 9 on a television campaign for the smartwatch, just slightly less than the $38.5 million that it spent on TV ads for new iPhones since mid-November, according to iSpot.TV, an analytics firm.

The watch’s success remains far from assured. Mr. Cook said on Apple’s financial earnings call in October that the company would report sales of the watch in a group with other products, rather than breaking it out into a separate category.

“I’m not very anxious in reporting a lot of numbers on Apple Watch and giving a lot of detail on it, because our competitors are looking for it,” Mr. Cook said.

Sales estimates for the watch are modest compared with Apple’s past best sellers. Toni Sacconaghi, a financial analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein, predicts Apple will ship 7.5 million watches in the second half of the company’s fiscal year, while tens of millions of iPhones fly off the shelves every quarter.

For now, Apple’s luxury experiment with the Apple Watch appears to be bringing in mixed results. At Apple’s London flagship store nine days ago, employees asked people if they wanted to sign up for personal appointments to get hands-on with the product. Several people were bemused that they could not handle the watches without appointments.

At an Apple store in Hong Kong, a Chinese tourist from Beijing, Scott Sun, took photos of the gold watches to send to his friends but said every version of the watch — which starts at $350 — was too expensive for him.

“There’s no way I’m going to buy one,” he said. “But for rich people, this gold one will definitely be popular.”

Another question raised by Apple’s luxury experiment with the watch is whether customers will believe it is worth the wait. While the watch will begin shipping to customers on Friday, some customers have reported that their shipping times have slipped to May or June.

For Mr. Weissbrot, the watch collector in SoHo, the wait was not a deterrent. He placed an online order for an Apple Watch Sport, which is the least expensive model and has an aluminum case, before the session in which he tried one on. The estimated date of arrival for his watch is May 13.

“It’s kind of a bummer,” he said, before adding that he was still excited to be among the first to have the device.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/20/technology/personaltech/changing-tactics-apple-promotes-watch-as-a-luxury-item.html?_r=0

March 30, 2015

Digital channels influenced $1.5T in-store sales in 2014: report

Luxury Daily
By: Nancy Buckley
March 30, 2015

More than 70 percent of consumers expect brand digital channels to have knowledge of in-store product availability, according to a new report by L2.

Accommodating both digital and in-store trends requires brands to adapt to e-commerce expectations of click-and-collect or free shipping, but also adhere to in-store demands. Many traditional brands face pressure from online retailers to offer better options for consumers turning to digital for both browsing and shopping.

“While luxury fashion in the past required a high touch, in person sale, things have changed,” said Eleanor Powers, director, Insight Reports, L2. “Overall fashion brands are still focused on online e-commerce conversion (e.g. by providing free shipping options).”

Channel options
Prior to interaction with a sales associate, 80 percent of United States consumers know what they want and how much they plan to spend. This knowledge stems from Web rooming, a concept that should be encouraged by brands because it leads to 40 percent higher conversions.

Digital channels effect 50 percent of in-store sales, despite direct-to-consumer ecommerce only accounting for 4 percent of sales.

Ecommerce is being challenged by larger online retailers. When British retailer AllSaints began accepting Amazon Payments there was concern among fashion brands, which escalated with the rumors surrounding Amazon and Net-A-Porter.

Amazon may be in talks to purchase Net-A-Porter, if reports that have been rumored are true.

The etail giant has been unsuccessful in entering the luxury industry in spite of attempts in recent years, and this potential acquisition could be significant for the future of both companies. The impact that this purchase could have on Net-A-Porter is unclear, but the retailer has been not been profitable despite its popularity (see story).

Amazon Prime’s rewards encourage consumers to shop online and receive free shipping for an annual fee. The Prime membership concept has been adapted by ShopRunner, a platform used by one-fifth of luxury brands.

Without ShopRunner, consumers are shopping to a minimum spending level to receive free shipping, but even with that many consumers are pulled away from luxury brands to find less expensive items online.

Some brands, especially in Europe, offer click-to-collect. Without these options, consumers are Web rooming for products and then purchasing in-store. Even with this option, consumers expect brands to have easily accessible information about store availability.

Generational thing
Difference in digital options also vary across generations.

Consumers are split on their willingness to download luxury brand applications, but when dispersed into generations, 72 percent of millennials are inclined to download a branded app, according to a report from The Luxury Institute.

Digitization of the luxury world is slowly evolving as younger generations grow into being affluent consumers. Luxury clients differ across more than just generations, but understanding the prime and upcoming consumer can prepare marketing teams for the future (see story).

Changing to adapt to generational and technological changes requires brands to look internally and adapt within every channel.

“Brands also need to support the hand-off from digital to in-store to support a seamless shopping experience,” Ms. Powers said. “This requires investments in infrastructure for local inventory visibility and providing options for click-and-collect and in-store returns.”

Source: http://www.luxurydaily.com/digital-channels-influenced-1-5t-in-store-sales-in-2014-report/

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