January 21, 2015
By: Luxury Institute
A surge in the number of high-income households signals a source of potential strength for firms selling high-end goods and services, according to a metadata analysis of the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances by the New York-based Luxury Institute. The number of U.S. families earning at least $150,000 has grown 25% from 10.6 million households in 2010 to 12.8 million 2013, but even as more Americans achieve “high-income” status, luxury merchants still face challenges in turning these high-earners into loyal customers.
Favorable trends in household finances, since 2010, have thus far failed to produce a broad-based rebound in luxury on par with the boom before the Great Recession. Despite rising levels of income, wealth, and recoveries in stocks and real estate to pre-recession levels, many providers of high-end goods and services continue to struggle with sales growth more than six years after the financial crisis that devastated asset values and consumer confidence.
Long memories of the crisis are partly to blame for restrained spending: 30% of consumers from households with at least $150,000 in annual income say that they spend more when their assets appreciate in value, but the wealth effect cuts both ways, and even more deeply when asset values decline. Two-thirds of high-income Americans say that when the value of what they own goes down so does their spending.
In addition, luxury marketers are also facing fundamental shifts in consumer shopping habits brought on by the ubiquity of tablets and smart phones, and the influence of social media.
“Compelling products and extraordinary experiences lead to long-term client relationships in luxury,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Firms thriving today are those with systems and personnel in place to leverage new technologies into smarter ways of communicating and doing business with customers that reflect the new reality.”
Conducted every three years since 1983, the Survey of Consumer Finances provides detailed demographic profiles and insights into household wealth, income, saving, and spending. Since 2004, the Luxury Institute has mined the survey data to identify emerging trends that can impact companies serving a wealthy clientele.