Luxury Institute News

October 26, 2016

96pc of Consumers Seek Others’ Opinions Before Making A Purchase
Wednesday, 26 October
By Sarah Jones

Word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted sources have more sway over consumers’ buying choices than any form of marketing, according to a survey by Influence Central.

Consumers are increasingly relying on reviews and social media to inform their purchase decisions, with 74 percent of shoppers saying they are more likely to ask their social network for opinions before buying than they were three years ago. With more information readily at their fingertips than before thanks to the Internet and smartphones, consumers are digging deeper than traditional media or the brand’s own channels.

“Our findings demonstrate that online reviews and recommendations play a powerful role in shaping the consumer purchasing journey, with 96 percent of women consumers saying they’re likely to seek out opinions and recommendations from others before they buy or try, and 91 percent looking beyond in-person family and friends to tap social networks when looking for a recommendation,” said Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central. “Seeking out trusted opinions has become step one for consumers in today’s path to purchase.”

Influence Central’s Consumer Insights Study is based on a survey of 400 American women in late summer 2016 conducted using an online questionnaire.

Social Networking

Nearly all consumers say they are apt to look for recommendations from others before buying a service or product. Slightly less, 91 percent, go beyond their immediate circle, expanding their search for opinions to social networks.

For 72 percent, this prevalence toward consulting social connections goes beyond considered purchases to everyday buying decisions.

About three-quarters say that they are more apt to turn to social media for advice than they would have been just three years ago. Reasons for this rise in use of social media for this purpose include being more active on social media with more connections and being able to better identify whose opinion to trust.

The most popular identities of social influencers for respondents included friends or friends of friends, extended family and family friends and former schoolmates.

Beyond merely consuming others’ opinions, 72 percent of women say they share their own recommendations on social networks.

Consumers are confident in their ability to determine the credibility of a review, with 93 percent self-identifying as skilled at picking which information to trust.

When trying to figure out whose word to trust, consumers look for reviews with lots of detail and turn to sources they have already deemed trustworthy.

In the rankings of trusted sources, traditional media comes in last, trailing close friends and family, other moms, Web searches and the consumer’s social network.

With more information at their disposal via search engines and social media, 56 percent say they collect more content. Only 17 percent say they take in less material.

However, 93 percent of women say they search for more types of information, with 88 percent seeking out more global influencers than they did just three to five years ago.

All of the sources at a consumers’ disposal can simultaneously be a help and a hindrance, as it means more to wade through and the prevalence of untrustworthy information.

When asked to describe what makes a review useful, 65 percent of consumers noted both an objective point of view and honesty. Another sign that a reviewer can be trusted is their status as a verified purchaser of a particular item.

Consumers trust peers over experts when looking for objective views of a product, with 80 percent seeking out consumers’ opinions compared to 59 percent looking for experts’ thoughts. When evaluating others’ recommendations, women look at a reviewer’s experience with the product and their identity, looking for those who have similar lifestyles.

“Luxury brands know their products typically don’t prove to be impulse purchases but instead they’re seen as investments where consumers do their homework upfront,” Ms. DeBroff said. “In fact, more than 85 percent of consumers use Web sites and social media to access recommendations they use to make purchasing decisions.

“By listening – and engaging – with consumers on these platforms, luxury brands can gain valuable insights on potential brand affinity and lifestyle aspirations, as well as learn what drives purchase.”

Ratings and Reviews

Social media content has implications beyond retail brands.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company leads online conversation among hospitality brands in the United States, according to a new report by Engagement Labs.

While word of mouth is still important among high-end goods and services, online conversation, hashed out on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, is steadily becoming a strategy for brands aiming for consumer retention. In Engagement Labs’ first “Total Social” ranking, Ritz-Carlton ranked the highest on social media, but fell when it came to recommendations made by offline word of mouth, presenting an opportunity for the hospitality brand (see story).

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

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

“Producing a great high-quality product always will be a strong first step, and luxury brands also need to understand that what really resonates with today’s savvy consumers proves to be authenticity,” Ms. DeBroff said. “Moreover, 93 percent of women consumers describe themselves as skilled at determining which information to trust, and as they look at online recommendations, ‘speaks from firsthand experience’ and ‘verified user/purchaser’ appear as the top two signals that the recommendation can be trusted.”


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.



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 16, 2016

Why ‘Basic’ Is Bad For Starbucks
By: Abha Bhattarai
September 15, 2016

With 24,000 locations across the world, Starbucks has become an everyday stop for millions.

But that ubiquity could now be its problem.

“Starbucks is now competing with chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s,” Business Insider proclaimed this week. “It has gotten, in a sense, too basic.”

“Basic,” according to Urban Dictionary, is a pejorative term used to describe anything “involving obscenely obvious behavior, dress, action.” Other examples of brands deemed basic: Lululemon, Michael Kors and Ugg Australia.

So what’s an overexposed company to do?

Starbucks in recent years has begun looking for ways to restore its luster. In December 2014, it opened a Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle, where $10 cold brews are the norm. The high-end concept is soon to expand to New York and Shanghai, with nearly a dozen other locations in the works, according to Business Insider:

“The premium coffee experience of the Roasteries is intended to have the trickle-down effect. The chain plans to open roughly 500 Reserve stores, which offers premium Roastery beverages and artisanal Princi food, and 1,500 stores with Reserve bars, which will serve drinks made in a wider variety of styles such as pour-over and siphoning.”

It’s all part of an effort, analysts say, to reinvent itself as a luxury brand.

But can a brand that’s gone mainstream turn high-end again? It’s a quandary that brands like Apple, Michael Kors and Coach have also faced in recent years, as they look to balance widespread popularity with upscale cache.

“I’ll just say this: It’s much harder to go up-market than it is to do the opposite,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a New York-based market research firm. “What Starbucks has to do at a higher level is to be personal, like when you go to Hermes and the salesperson knows your name, or when you buy a Tesla and you’re in a high-street showroom.”

When it was founded in 1971, Starbucks was a premium brand, offering a higher-priced but also a better-quality cup of coffee than most Americans were used to. In the decades since, Americans have taken to it in droves, making the Seattle-based brand a commonplace staple, as ubiquitous as McDonald’s or Wal-Mart.

“They’ve set the bar high, and now they have to keep moving to an even higher level,” Pedraza said.

It’s a phenomenon Pam Danzinger calls “lux-flation”: Our ideas of what constitutes a premium product or experience are always evolving.

“A brand like Starbucks starts at the top, and as it expands, it becomes the new normal,” said Danzinger, author of “Putting the Luxe Back in Luxury.” “Now it’s got to create that mystique once again.”

Need another example? Just look to Apple, Danzinger says. A decade or two ago, the company’s iMacs and MacBooks were seen as coveted novelty items. Today, just about everybody has at least one Apple device, which, she says, is why the company is reinventing its retail locations with free Wi-Fi, ficus trees and weekend concerts.

“They’re putting the human touch back into the equation,” Danzinger said. “That’s one way to regain that luxury edge.”

It’s not always an easy proposition, Pedraza says. Coach had tried for years to win back an air of exclusivity to no avail, as have Michael Kors and Kate Spade.

But, he says, there have been some successes: In the early ’90s, Gucci was almost done for. The Italian fashion company was in financial despair and its creative director was quoted as saying “no one would dream of wearing Gucci.” Then Tom Ford took over, and revived the brand, boosting sales and restoring the company to its previous glory.

“There are examples, but it takes a lot of money and a lot of paring back,” Pedraza said. “And frankly, not every company has the courage to do that. Everything is so grow, grow, grow in today’s world. And before you know it, you have a mainstream brand that isn’t special anymore.”


September 6, 2016

The Hunt for Asia Watch Sales
By: Victoria Gomelsky 
September 6, 2016

Even as Swiss watch exports continue to decline, watchmakers are sharply focused on trying to find just the right combination of marketing and retail strategies in Hong Kong and mainland China, the industry’s No.1 and No.4 sales markets.

For the first six months of this year, exports totaled $9.9 billion worldwide, a 10.6 percent slide from the same period in 2015. The steepest drop came in Hong Kong, which underwent a 26.7 percent decrease, with June the region’s 17th consecutive month of decline. Analysts attribute the slump in the city, long a favorite tax-free shopping spot for mainland Chinese and Western tourists alike, to numerous issues, including Beijing’s four-year-old anticorruption crackdown on gifts, changing consumer preferences and global currency challenges, chiefly a soaring Swiss franc and a strong dollar.

“The near term doesn’t look optimistic,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the New York-based Luxury Institute. “No one is willing to bet that in the next 24 months there will be a turnaround.”

What makes this crisis considerably more daunting for the watch industry than the global recession of 2008 is that the Swiss brands now have thoroughly assessed the mainland Chinese market and no longer expect that its demand, which peaked in 2012, will propel a spectacular recovery.

Clockwise, from top left, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor featuring the FFF team logo; Hu Ge with a Piaget Polo S; and Li Bingbing with Sascha Moeri, chief executive of the brand Carl F. Bucherer.

Clockwise, from top left, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor featuring the FFF team logo; Hu Ge with a Piaget Polo S; and Li Bingbing with Sascha Moeri, chief executive of the brand Carl F. Bucherer.

  • In July, Swiss watch exports to Britain increased 13.4 percent compared with the previous year.
  • Watchmakers attributed the increase to the pound’s decline since the June 23 vote. “We kept our prices unchanged while the GBP went down compared to other major currencies,” said Fabien Dutriaux, vice president of sales for Arnold & Son, a watch company based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. “We believe that this gap attracted some customers and generated this uptick.”
  • One month, however, doesn’t tell the whole story, cautioned Jean-Daniel Pasche, president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. “The growth of July follows a substantial fall in the previous month and is explained in part by a favorable base effect,” he said. “But we cannot exclude that it is also due to the weakening of the pound and the consequent increase of sales. We will see next month if this growth is confirmed.”

Some watchmakers, however, continue to hope. “The state of the market in China is not as bad as what you read about,” said Philippe Léopold-Metzger, chief executive of Piaget.

He acknowledged that a glut in wholesale inventories had pushed many brands to buy back stock from authorized dealers in Hong Kong — an unusual occurrence in the watch world — but, he added, “retail is doing pretty well.”

In its report for the fiscal year that ended March 31, Piaget’s parent company, the Geneva-based luxury group Compagnie Financière Richemont — owner of such high-end brands as Cartier, Panerai and Jaeger-LeCoultre — indicated that its watchmakers’ sales had increased 3 percent year over year but that its operating contribution had declined 29 percent, in part because of “a difficult environment in Hong Kong, Macau and the Americas.”

Mr. Léopold-Metzger said that, with the change in focus from gifts to personal purchases, price had become more important, and the brand had responded by introducing its first collection entirely in steel. The Polo S, a casual men’s watch Piaget unveiled in July, gave it a new entry price of $9,350. “Consumers are young, and they’re going to love the look of the watch,” Mr. Léopold-Metzger said.

Of utmost importance, he added, is that the brand expands its business locally. To that end, Piaget has teamed with Hu Ge, the Chinese actor, singer and social media darling, to appear in Beijing last month for the Polo S collection. Mr. Léopold-Metzger described Mr. Hu as a “game changer” and said that his ambassadorial role would be publicized primarily through digital media.

Piaget isn’t alone in trying to connect with new consumers in new ways.

Swiss watch executives are gradually embracing the idea that to entice young buyers, a “combination of a strong social media strategy with smart celebrity endorsements becomes really powerful,” said David Sadigh, founder and chief executive of the Digital Luxury Group, a Geneva-based digital marketing agency.

The watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer is a believer. With Digital Luxury Group’s help, the brand introduced a repositioning campaign at the Baselworld fair in March featuring a new logo, “Lucerne 1888,” to highlight the brand’s Swiss hometown and its founding year. (That the logo incorporates — and repeats — the number 8, considered a sign of wealth and good fortune in China, is serendipitous, said Sascha Moeri, the brand’s chief executive.)

It also announced Li Bingbing as its ambassador. Western audiences may know her only for recent additions to the “Resident Evil” and “Transformer” franchises, but she is a star in China. “Li Bingbing had 37 million followers on China’s Weibo at the time the partnership was signed,” Mr. Sadigh said.

Alliances also are being sought beyond film and television. In May, the Geneva-based watchmaker Roger Dubuis announced its sponsorship of FFF Racing, a new GT championship automotive racing team founded by Fu Songyang, the 31-year-old Chinese tycoon. And to mark its new role at 15 races across Europe and Asia, the brand created an eight-piece limited edition of its Excalibur Quatuor model in black DLC titanium featuring the FFF logo at 12 o’clock.

Jean-Marc Pontroue, Dubuis’ chief executive, said the FFF partnership was intended to support the brand’s retail strategy in mainland China. A year ago, Roger Dubuis opened a second boutique in Beijing, in the luxury SKP mall, “and that has given visibility, credibility and access to many new customers,” he said. He also noted that moving the company’s Shanghai boutique to a busier retail location in April had “created 10 times more traffic.”

Several watchmakers say the global answer to growth lies in reducing distribution costs while maintaining sales.

“Three to four years ago we were at 500 points of sale globally, and now we’re at 300 and we continue to go down,” said Tim Saylor, chief marketing officer for the Audemars Piguet brand. “Currently we have less than 10 doors in all of China, with only two boutiques. We’re not sitting on a huge number of stores with huge stock and collapsing demand.”

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