Luxury Institute News

October 14, 2014


Market Wired

NEW YORK, NY — (Marketwired) — 10/14/14 — More than two-thirds (70%) of wealthy U.S. consumers, under the age of 50, drink wine at least once a month, and they’re willing to pay premium prices for preferred vintages — an average of $48 per bottle at retail and $64 at a restaurant. These are among findings of the New York-based Luxury Institute’s just released Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) premium wines survey.

Consumers 21 and older from households with income of at least $150,000 a year evaluated 20 premium domestic wine brands on the degree to which each embodies the four “pillars” of brand value: superior quality, exclusivity, enhanced social status and an overall superior consumption experience. Respondents also reveal which wines are worth paying premium prices, which they would recommend to people close to them, and which brand they will buy next.

Based on overall 1-10 LBSI scores, Ghost Pines (7.65) earns top honors, and it ranks the highest on all four pillars of value. Known for California winemaker Michael Eddy’s multi-appellation blends of grapes from Napa, Sonoma, Monterey and San Joaquin counties, Ghost Pines is also the brand consumers deem most worthy of a price premium, even though many of its bottles sell for less than $20.

Other highly ranked premium domestic brands include Mount Veeder (7.39), Meiomi (7.30), Bridlewood (7.16) and Edna Valley (6.90).

“Winemaking is the quintessential luxury business in many ways,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Brand value begins with the best-quality raw materials and grows with fine craftsmanship and a relentless focus on execution and consistently delighting customers.”

Contact the Luxury Institute for more details and complete survey data.

Visit us at and contact us with any questions or for more information.

The Luxury Institute, LLC


October 4, 2014

Williams-Sonoma returns home to celebrate heritage

Janet Fletcher
October 4, 2014

The store that introduced America to food processors and copper fish pans has returned to its Wine Country roots.

For many decades, Williams-Sonoma thrived by being one step ahead of its customers, selling them housewares they didn’t yet know they needed. But with this weekend’s opening of its newest venue, in Sonoma, the trendsetting company is looking back to celebrate its 99-year-old founder and recall its humble debut.

The project also reflects the Boomer-fueled brand’s efforts to woo a younger generation — Millennials, who aren’t exactly rushing to buy homes and stock kitchens.

This retro Williams-Sonoma, at the site of the original store, re-creates the look of the shop that Chuck Williams opened in 1956, down to the black-and-white checkerboard floor. “It’s going to be a total doppelganger,” said Wade Bentson, one of Williams’ first employees, who helped with its design.

With a 12-seat cooking school showcasing local talent, an edible garden, vintage merchandise and museum-style kitchenware exhibit, the store is opening in a town famously hostile to chains. But the billion-dollar retailer, for the most part, is being welcomed like a hometown hero.

“I’m totally excited about it,” said Sheana Davis, a community activist and proprietor of Epicurean Connection, a nearby cafe and cheese shop. “If you’re looking for opposition, I’m not it.”

Williams, who celebrated his 99th birthday this week, operated his store near the historic plaza for only two years before decamping to San Francisco. But his later success made Sonoma itself an international brand.

Visitors still inquire about the chain’s birthplace. “I’ve been introduced as his son several times,” said Steven Havlek, who owns Sign of the Bear, an independent kitchenware store on the plaza.

Re-creating the original

When the site at 605 Broadway became available in 2012, the retailer swooped in. The property included both Williams’ original 570-square-foot shop and an attached home and garden that he had shared with his mother.

“We found enough pictures and enough from (Williams) to rebuild the store exactly as it was,” said Janet Hayes, president of the Williams-Sonoma brand. The restoration includes original signage and the clean-lined open white shelving that became the stores’ trademark.

The new Sonoma store includes an exhibit of ingredients and tools that Williams popularized, such as Fini balsamic vinegar, Maldon sea salt, Le Creuset cookware and French mandolines. Williams’ restored home, attached to the store, has been repurposed as a design studio and showcase for Williams-Sonoma Home furnishings. The store is not all retro; the made-over garden boasts an outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and lots of merchandise from the company’s new Agrarian line, launched in 2012 in keeping with a younger generation’s fascination with urban farming.

The DIY cheese-making kits and high-end chicken coops that Williams-Sonoma is betting on today were definitely not in the mix when Williams began his retailing career. The society matrons who patronized Williams-Sonoma in the late 1950s were lured by the gleaming copper saucepans, Pillivuyt porcelain and fluted tart tins that Williams discovered in France. Jackie Kennedy and Julia Child were about to make French cuisine the epitome of chic, and Williams was poised to profit.

Cooking to entertaining

Urged by his affluent customers to move the shop to San Francisco, Williams listened when one of them suggested a spot near Elizabeth Arden, the high-end salon on Sutter Street. “In those days, women had beehive hair that required a lot of attention,” recalled Bentson, who began working for the store in 1961. “It wasn’t unusual for them to go to Arden’s two or three times a week, and they went right by our store.”

Women from Hillsborough, Piedmont and Marin would have their ball gowns shipped to Williams-Sonoma, drop their dogs off at the store, and then go and have their hair done, recalled Mary Risley, who founded Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco and is a longtime friend of Williams’. They bought Christmas presents and wedding gifts at Williams-Sonoma, especially after the merchant — again nudged by a customer — created a bridal registry to compete withGumps and Tiffany.

Child’s popular television show, which debuted in 1963, also fueled Williams-Sonoma’s sales. If Julia used it, “people beat the way to our store to get it,” Bentson said. San Francisco cooking teachers like Risley andJoyce Goldstein sent their students to the store for quiche pans, flan rings and souffle dishes — equipment that department stores of the day did not stock.

“Everybody was either taking cooking lessons or giving cooking lessons,” recalledJacqueline Mallorca, an early customer and ad agency employee who persuaded Williams that the store needed a mail-order catalog. Begun in 1972 and, for years, written by Mallorca, the innovative full-color mailer put Williams’ finds and favorite recipes within reach of all Americans.

Today, the recipes have migrated to the company’s website, and the catalog copy is far more clipped and concise. The September issue still includes Le Creuset and All-Cladcookware but also features packaged mixes for Bundt cakes, quick breads, waffles and breakfast bars — a shift noted unhappily by the culinary doyennes of San Francisco.

“There’s an awful lot of tableware,” sniffed Mallorca, an Englishwoman whose polished manners don’t conceal her dismay. “People today are not so interested in cooking as much as entertaining.”

Positioning for future

Goldstein, who later collaborated with Williams on several cookbooks, concurred. “At some point, Williams-Sonoma made the shift from being an educating store to being a lifestyle store, with tablecloths, napkins and pottery,” she said.

The publicly traded company’s other concepts — among them, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm — are thriving, but the net revenue of the Williams-Sonoma brand has been stagnant in recent years and the store count is down. Branding experts and trend forecasters see both opportunities and challenges for the chain as it positions itself for the future.

Many affluent young consumers aren’t hurrying to buy homes, they say, and are more inclined to spend on experiences than on stuff.

“I’ve been invited to buy wedding gifts at experiential websites,” said Kara Nielsen, culinary director for Sterling-Rice Group, an advertising and branding agency in Boulder, Colo. Nielsen and others also point to a minimalist trend, a preference for smaller, less cluttered homes and simpler lives.

“A lot of Millennials believe in access but not ownership,” Nielsen said, pointing to the success of businesses that enable consumers to share cars or rent special-occasion clothes.

Building in diversity

Like other retailers, Williams-Sonoma needs to respond to changing demographics, marketing experts say. “Diversity has to be built into their product range and into their staff,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a consultant to high-end brands. Pedraza points to his own multicultural family, which includes Colombians, a Jewish lawyer from Long Island and a Hindu doctor.

“We make samosas for Thanksgiving with turducken and Spanish rice,” he said. “And we’re not atypical.”

Marc Halperin, a food and beverage consultant with San Francisco’s Center for Culinary Development, believes the chain is still a tastemaker and sharp observer of trends. The Agrarian line dovetails neatly with the urban homesteading wave, Halperin said. And the shift toward offering tableware, juicers and other appliances that have little to do with cooking may also be wise.

“There’s clearly a huge understanding of the consumer,” Halperin said. “The number and variety of espresso machines they’re selling is mind-boggling.”

Janet Fletcher is a food writer and cookbook author in Napa.

Company milestones

1956: First Williams-Sonoma store opens on Broadway in Sonoma.

1958: Chuck Williams moves his thriving cookware store to Sutter Street in San Francisco.

1972: Williams-Sonoma mails its first cookware catalog, with a print run of 10,000.

1973: Williams-Sonoma opens its second store, in Beverly Hills. Chuck Williams introduces the Cuisinart food processor, a revolutionary French appliance.

1978: Chuck Williams encounters balsamic vinegar in Italy and begins to import it.

1983: With its initial public offering, Williams-Sonoma becomes a publicly traded company to raise money for expansion.

1986: Williams-Sonoma releases its first cookbook, starting a hugely successful publishing program.

1999: Williams-Sonoma starts its e-commerce site.

2006: Debut of Williams-Sonoma Home, a furniture and home decor collection

2012: Williams-Sonoma starts Agrarian, a line of products designed for urban homesteaders.

2014: Williams-Sonoma opens its240th store in Sonoma, at the site of the original store.


February 28, 2014

Buying into bling

By Daina Lawrence
Special to The Globe and Mail
February 27, 2014

Affluent individuals around the world bucked the depressed market norms of the last few years and managed to keep the luxury goods market bustling by investing in alternatives such as art, wine and supercars.

Companies such as Hermès SA, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA are gaining new customers daily, with 10 million new buyers wading into the market each year.

Many of these companies have given good news to shareholders recently, including luxury goods dynamo Michael Kors – known for its footwear, watches and clothing – whose shares soared 17.3 per cent to $89.91 (U.S.) in early February, after the company’s report of higher-than-expected profits.

Click the link to read the entire article which includes quotes from Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute:

March 3, 2012

Lapostolle Blind Tasting With Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasting demonstrated quality of this New World wine and discussed trends in the luxury market

(NEW YORK) March 2, 2012  —  Lapostolle, the Marnier Lapostolle family-owned premium winery inChile, hosted a blind tasting with their Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and 2009 vintages.  Held at the Astor Center in New York City on March 1st, the tasting pit Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine consistently rated at 90 points and above, against other top Cabernet contenders, both at price parity and far exceeding the cost of the Lapostolle marque.

The tasting opened with a presentation by Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, who discussed how luxury is perceived today.  In the uncertainty of the current economy, the concept of luxury is being redefined to mean quality, excellence, consistency and a demonstrable superiority when measured against others in its class.  Savvy consumers no longer define fine wines by their cost, but rather by quality, taste and refinement.  Experts predict that wine buyers will be ever more likely to trade up from popular price points under $20 for better quality and taste, and the $25 tier is projected to rise in sales.

The blind tasting was conducted by Master of Wine Sheri Sauter Morano, with media attendees given the opportunity to taste and rank the wines.  At the conclusion, Sheri revealed the average of all the rankings, listed below beginning with the most favorably ranked wine and ending with the least favorably ranked wine:

  • 3.9 – Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Colchagua Valley USD $25
  • 4.0 - Jordan, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Alexander Valley USD $45
  • 4.3 - Joseph Phelps, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Napa Valley USD $60
  • 4.3 – Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon  2007, Alexander Valley USD $73
  • 4.5 – Caymus Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley USD $75
  • 4.5 – Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Knights Valley, USD $25
  • 4.9 – Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Colchagua Valley USD $25
  • 5.6 – The Montelena Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 USD $135

“Blind tasting is always a wonderful equalizer.  This tasting was a great opportunity to challenge assumptions and make new discoveries. I think that the Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon is a fantastic example of the kind of excellent, top-quality wines being made in Chile today that deliver not only on taste, but on value for the consumer as this tasting clearly demonstrated,” says Sheri Sauter Morano MW.

“We were excited with results from this blind tasting and to demonstrate that, with a suggested retail price of $25, our wines truly play on the world stage; and equal in quality to brands costing far more than our Cuvee tier,” says Pamela Broyles, North American Marketing Manager.

Milton Pedraza says, “Lapostolle is a wonderful example of delivering true discernible value to post-recession consumers who demand legitimacy from luxury products.  The results of this tasting coupled with the authenticity and strong family history behind the Lapostolle label truly demonstrates that the Cuvee Alexandre tier is worthy of consideration as luxury consumption evolves.”

Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and 2009 are available nationwide (SRP $24.99 / 750ml).

March 2, 2012

Haute Wine Event: Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Challenge

By Ashley Joy Parker
March 1, 2012

On March 1st, Astor Center played host to  a unqiue wine tasting event that  pitted the Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon against other top contenders, both at price parity and rising far above the cost of the Lapostolle marque.

Conducted by Master of Wine Sheri Sauter Morano, members of the press were given the oppuntity to blind taste eight different Cabernet Sauvignons and rank them according to appeaearnce, nose and pallet and overall drinkability.

The Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ( $25 a bottle), a wine consistently rated at 90 points and above, against other top contenders, both at price parity and rising far above the cost of the Lapostolle marque was awarded the top rating overall rating beating out such price-point power players as Caymus Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley ($75) and The Montelena Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($135), which was ranked dead last.

As a special treat, CEO of the Luxury Institute, Milton Pedraza, was on hand to speak about how luxury is perceived today, specifically how consumers are spending their hard-earned money.

“It’s not all about showing off anymore. The most expensive wine isn’t always the best,” said Pedraza. “It is about brand consistency and value.”