Luxury Institute News

October 12, 2015

Luxury retailers facing slowing growth

By: Nova Safo
October 12, 2015

Luxury brand giant LVMH reports third-quarter earnings Monday, amid concerns of a slowdown in China taking its toll on luxury brands.

LVMH has had a good year. It reported 19 percent revenue growth in the first half of 2015.

The company owns 70 luxury brands ranging from wine and perfume, to clothing and watches, including Louis Vuiton, Donna Karan, Tag Heuer, Moet and Marc Jacobs. It has almost as many stores in Asia as it does in Europe. And that has exposed the company to the economic slowdown in China.

“Luxury growth trends are slowing down,” said industry consultant Milton Pedraza of the Luxury Institute.

A lot of that slowdown has been attributed to China. But, Pedraza said U.S. sanctions on Russia and Brazil’s economic slowdown are also responsible.

As for Chinese consumers, they are still buying luxury items, just not in China, said luxury retail analyst Paul Swinand of Morningstar. The Chinese are going to Europe, he said, where “prices are actually 30, 40 even 50 percent lower.”

And that has meant increases in sales in some European markets, he said, while Asian markets have seen declines. Even in the U.S., luxury brand CEOs have reported slowing traffic in stores, Pedraza said. A lot of this has to do with currency valuations, he said.

As a counter move, luxury brands have been investing in e-commerce. LVMH recently hired an Apple executive to lead its digital operation.

“If you’ve only got so many Cartier, or Omega, or Rolex watches made in the world, then it really doesn’t matter where you sell them,” Swinand said, predicting that, eventually, e-commerce sales could add up to as much as 20 percent of a luxury retailer’s revenues.


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October 3, 2015

Can a fast fashion vet steer Ralph Lauren’s ship?

Retail Wire
By: Tom Ryan
October 2, 2015

Shocking many fashion insiders, Ralph Lauren Corp. hired Stefan Larsson, a former H&M executive and president of Old Navy, to replace Ralph Lauren as CEO.

Mr. Lauren, 75, will remain active as executive chairman and chief creative officer and is expected to continue to oversee the luxury side. Mr. Larsson will report to Mr. Lauren in what’s described as a “partnership.”

Mr. Larsson, 41, is credited with reviving Old Navy after taking over in 2012 with a focus on upgrading design and bringing over some quick-turnaround supply chain tricks he learned in his 15 years at H&M. He takes over as CEO of Ralph Lauren Corp. in November.

Ralph Lauren Corp.’s revenues slid 5.3 percent in the second quarter due to a strengthening dollar that affected both overseas profits and tourist traffic at its stores in the U.S. The company has also faced heightened competition in the luxury channel this year. Shares are down around 40 percent this year.

The recruitment of Mr. Larsson was the latest example of the insular luxury industry looking outside for talent. LVMH recently hired an Apple executive as chief digital officer, Chanel SA’s CEO spent 15 years at Gap, and Grita Loebsack, a former VP at Unilever Plc, was recently hired as CEO of Kering’s emerging brands, which include Stella McCartney and Gucci.

Stefan Larsson
Stefan Larsson – Photo: Gap, Inc.

“You see a lot of luxury brands now recruiting from other industries,” Milton Pedraza, the CEO of the Luxury Institute, a research firm, told The Wall Street Journal. “They need executives with skills the luxury industry doesn’t necessarily have such as an expertise in global distribution or digital marketing.”

Mr. Larsson, who is Swedish, is expected to be useful in expanding Ralph Lauren’s business overseas. An outside CEO may also make aggressive calls to reduce expenses and bring more sophistication to an organization.

Odeon Capital analyst Rick Snyder told Reuters the company had grown to a size where it needed more “systems and controls.”

The New York Times said that for the legendary designer, the hiring “indicates that he, at least, feels it is still important to separate the roles and have a professional manager running the brand and reassuring Wall Street.”

Still others felt the business model may be due for a more radical change, with department store growth slowing and fast-fashion retailers like H&M, Uniqlo and Zara leading fashion’s growth.

“Larsson has a track record of expanding very well,” longtime industry analyst Walter F. Loeb told the Daily News. “His contribution to Ralph Lauren will be global expansion and, more importantly, discipline within the company.”


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September 30, 2015

Ralph Lauren hires Old Navy executive to replace him as CEO

By: Siddharth Cavale and Kylie Gumpert
September 29, 2015

American designer Ralph Lauren, who built a fashion powerhouse on luxury designs inspired by country club chic, announced Tuesday he is stepping down as chief executive officer and named the head of Gap Inc’s populist Old Navy brand to the position.

Ralph Lauren Corp, founded by 75-year-old Lauren in 1967, appointed Stefan Larsson, the global president of Gap’s Old Navy division, as CEO effective in November. Lauren will continue to serve as executive chairman and head its design team, the company said in a statement.

Lauren, who got his start designing neckties, plans to stay active at the company and Larsson will report to him.

“When they start designing things I can’t understand, I’ll quit,” Lauren told the New York Times in an interview.

Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent to $108 in trading after the bell. Gap shares fell 3 percent to $29.30.

The company has been struggling to boost profits as a stronger dollar reduces the value of sales from overseas. Net revenue in its first quarter ended June 27 fell 5 percent, mainly due to currency fluctuations.

Odeon Capital analyst Rick Snyder said the company had grown to a size where it needed more “systems and controls.” The change in CEO “is just a natural progression,” Snyder said.

Milton Pedraza, a fashion industry analyst at the Luxury Institute, said Larsson’s appointment follows a trend of luxury brands hiring leaders from mass-market companies in recent months. He cited the appointment of Grita Loebsack, a former vice president at Unilever Plc, as CEO of Kering’s emerging brands, which include Stella McCartney and Gucci.

Larsson, 41, is credited with reviving sales at Old Navy, successfully implementing a model of offering trendy clothes at low prices.

Annual sales at the division rose 8 percent in 2014 and became Gap’s biggest business. Sales for the division were $6.62 billion, or 40.3 percent of Gap’s total.

Lauren’s fashion empire includes some 25 brands including Polo, Club Monaco and Denim & Supply, and the company makes clothing, accessories, furniture, home decor items and footwear under its labels.

Larsson, a Swede who before joining Gap was global head of sales at Hennes & Mauritz, brings experience of managing a fast fashion business with a supply chains considered to be among the most efficient within the apparel industry.

His appointment would be a good fit for Ralph Lauren which is seeking to reorganize and centralize business units and brands, Snyder said.

“If he comes from a place like H&M, he understands global supply chains and that’s one of the things that Ralph Lauren is trying to implement right now,” Snyder said. “It’s going to be very positive for them.”

Despite the aura of Anglo-Saxon elitism around his company, Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx in 1939. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Belarus, and he changed his name to Lauren at age 16.

Lauren’s designs drew inspiration from elite and exotic realms including East Coast prepsters, the Wild West, colonists on African safari and czarist Russia. He designed the wardrobe for the 1974 film version of “The Great Gatsby” including a pink suit for star Robert Redford.

The Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, which debuted in 1972, became a signature item for the company with a tiny polo player embroidered on the chest.

His designs have been worn by presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and actor Johnny Depp.

Lauren was also, perhaps surprisingly, influential in the hip hop world. His bright colors and bold clothing became staples for some New York gangs, and rappers such as Kanye West and Lil Wayne have mentioned Lauren and his designs in their rhymes.

The company also said that Jackwyn Nemerov, chief operating officer, would retire in November at which time she will become an adviser to the company.


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September 17, 2015

What The Apple Watch Hermès Tells Us About the Future of Tech and Luxury

By: Eustacia Huen
September 17, 2015

Last week, Apple unveiled Apple Watch Hermès, a new collection of Apple watches that links the tech giant with French fashion house Hermès for a striking opening act to fashion month. The new watches in stainless steel feature an etching of Hermès signature and a customizable face with three exclusive dial designs inspired by Clipper, Cape Cod and Espace Hermès watches.

Joined by the brands’ mutual focus on design, the Apple Watch Hermès is a result of what Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of Hermès called “an alliance in excellence; like horse and carriage, a perfect team.” Beyond the obvious strategic move of two companies at the top of their games, the partnership holds implications about the future of tech and luxury.

First of all, there is the obvious progression of tech products becoming more luxury-oriented, and luxury products becoming more tech-oriented. The Apple Watch is unique for having no visible Apple logo when the product is being worn. Giving Hermès the limelight, Apple is able to reach out to an affluent yet fashion-centric audience that was not previously reachable. Coupled with the fact that Apple shelled out for plenty of advertising pages in Vogue and delivered devices to models, the brand sends a clear signal that it’s trying to sell the Apple watch to the fashion world. As for Hermès, a 178-year-old brand famous for its iconic handbags and leather goods, entering any partnership like this is a rare yet strong statement that it wants to be viewed as contemporary.

With Apple wanting a luxurious edge, and Hermès hoping to branch out from their ‘wealthy grandmother and mother’ clientele, the Apple-Hermès partnership also informs us about the millennial demographic targeted by both companies, according to Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute.

Perhaps the best way to understand the demographic, as the luxury expert noticed, is the pricing of the watches. Ranging from $1,100 for the 38mm stainless steel case with the Single Tour (single band) to $1,500 for the 42mm stainless steel case with the cuff, the Apple Watch Hermès is not the most expensive watch for either brands.

While I think the Apple Watch Hermès could benefit from more refined elements from Hermès and more technological features from Apple, it’s a decent first attempt nonetheless. According to Pedraza, the collaboration is significant as it marks the transitional period before millennials become fully capable as primary consumers. And during this “period of positive disruption and innovation,” there are a few things he said we should expect: “Even fewer people will visit actual stores, and future products—whether they are in the tech or luxury market—will become more experiential.”


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September 14, 2015

Battle of the Bling: Nordstrom heats up Vancouver’s retail war

The Province
By: Paul Luke
September 13, 2015

Upscale merchants are going to war to push Metro Vancouver deeper into the lap of luxury.

When Nordstrom’s flagship outlet in downtown Vancouver opens its doors this Friday, it will intensify a battle of the bling between high-end department stores keen to tap the high-income spending power pulsing across the region.

The region’s surging shopping wealth has been fuelled by growth in affluent tourists, deep-pocketed immigrants from Asia and “aspirational consumers” who selectively splurge on luxury goods. The global luxury goods market will expand two to four per cent this year, according to U.S. consulting firm Bain & Co.

Metro Vancouver has been getting more than its share of that increase, says retail analyst Craig Patterson.

Toronto has more wealthy consumers than Vancouver but Vancouver’s luxury retail merchants often out-perform their Ontario counterparts. One Vancouver luxury boutique insider told Patterson that his Vancouver store routinely out-sells the same brand’s larger Toronto location.

“That holds true for a lot of luxury brands in Vancouver,” says Patterson, editor-in-chief of online publication Retail Insider.

“It is a fact of retail that Vancouver punches far above its weight. The Vancouver retail luxury pie will grow in both the number of shoppers as well as stores.”

A desire for retail luxury is about more than just an appetite for Saint Laurent Paris jeans that cost $1,070 at Nordstrom, observers say. Retail analyst David Ian Gray, founder of DIG360 Consulting, says the world of retail has been polarizing into a desire for “utility or delight.”

Utility means cheap prices and easy shopping at dollar stores or online retail sites.

At the “delightful” end of the spectrum is careful service in an attractive retail environment, he says. Gray’s argument is supported by findings from research firm Luxury Institute, which reported that 47 per cent of luxury consumers say customer services defines an upscale brand.

Few affluent shoppers do online research before going out to make on-the-spot purchases, according to the institute. But they also want informed guidance from staff before deciding to buy.

One of Nordstrom’s strengths is the money it invests in ensuring that customers of all incomes are well cared for, Gray says.

“All of the processes Nordstrom has built converge on creating the ability for their people to offer great service,” he says. “Their product knowledge is outstanding.”

Battle-hardened retailers in the U.S. and Europe are used to scrapping for upscale consumers but the intensity of the retail fight will be new to Vancouver, Gray says.

Nordstrom co-president Erik Nordstrom says Nordstrom’s product range will overlap with those of Hudson’s Bay and Holt Renfrew. But Nordstrom’s range of prices is greater than any of its competitors, according to Nordstrom.

Jolt Jeans at Nordstrom cost a modest $58. Watches start at $26 and range up to $5,000 for a Montblanc time piece.

The Vancouver store that bears his family name should by no means be called a luxury retailer, Nordstrom insists.

“Luxury implies exclusivity,” Nordstrom says. “We want to be an inclusive store.”

Nordstrom’s arrival in Vancouver has prompted rivals Holt Renfrew and Hudson’s Bay to expand their stores, renovate and introduce new lines of merchandise, experts say.

Hudson’s Bay already offers Nordstrom-like service in its luxury womenswear department “The Room,” which is located on the second floor of its downtown store, Patterson says. But there’s room for improvement in the store as a whole, he says.

“If Hudson’s Bay wants to keep up with Nordstrom and an expanded Holt Renfrew, it will need to hire more staff and ensure they are motivated enough to provide customer service comparable to the competition,” Patterson says.

Despite local consumers’ robust appetite for luxury, the number of glitz merchants washing into Metro may bring too many high-end stores, making the retail dogfight even more ferocious, observers say.

“We will be a little over-supplied and that means people will be slugging it out,” Gray says.

“There are only so many dollars to go around. Nordstrom, by definition, will have to take from the others. It’s not like there’s unmet demand with money sitting there waiting to be spent.”

But Nordstrom isn’t the only new luxury kid on the block. Several high-end brands opened their doors in July at the McArthurGlen designer outlet centre in Richmond.

Hudson’s Bay-owned luxury merchant Saks is expected to land in Vancouver in the near future — and Saks will compete nose to nose with Holt Renfrew, analysts say.

Not to be overlooked is the swelling high-end retail parade centred on Vancouver’s Alberni Street — what Patterson calls “the luxury zone.” Among the brands Patterson says are coming to the luxury zone over the next few months are Brunello Cucinelli, Moncler, Versace, Stefano Ricci, Prada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lao Feng Xiang and Strellson.

“It’s not just the department stores. It’s all the boutiques, the chains, the global luxury brands with their own stores ­— you’ve got to throw it all into mix,” says Gray of the luxury retail onslaught.

“There is a sense that Vancouver is a location where you want to have your luxury brand, whether or not it’s a rational economic decision. You don’t want to be seen as the one who has been left behind. Vancouver has become a focal point of luxury.”

And in the case of luxuries, retailers don’t need to sell many of their highest end products to have a good year, Gray says.

Darren Dahl, a marketing professor at University of B.C., says department stores and boutiques can’t afford to rely just on purely affluent shoppers.

They also need aspirational consumers, the mid-tier or mainstream shoppers who sacrifice and scrimp so they can enjoy the perceived status of owning a certain luxury good.

These opulence aspirants, however, may not immediately know how much luxury they can afford — and that’s where good service comes in. “There is a luxury pyramid and a store will give you an opportunity to figure out where you fit,” he says.

The democratizing of retail means these occasional luxury buyers may shop in Holt Renfrew one day and Wal-Mart or Costco the next, Dahl says.

There is another a group of affluent B.C. residents who will never set foot in a Nordstrom or a Holt Renfrew. These are the folks who prefer quiet wealth, rejecting the notion of flaunted affluence, Dahl says.

Unlike Target, whose Canadian venture burned out when it opened too many stores too quickly, Nordstrom is carefully opening one store at a time in Canada. But it won’t be a slam dunk for Nordstrom, analysts say.

If Nordstrom disappoints or is unable to create manageable expectations, “the buzz” among consumers could quickly turn against it, Gray says.

Even in bling-hungry Vancouver, luxury will not guarantee success, whether it’s a department store or a boutique.

“Vancouver has a history of luxury brand openings and closures, though these stores were typically franchised,” Patterson says.

“I’m referring to Nina Ricci, Istante, Versus, Furla, Goldpfeil, Valentino Boutique, Celine, Alfred Dunhill, Hugo Boss Woman and a few others which have opened and closed in downtown Vancouver over the years.

“It will be interesting to see if incoming brands survive.”


Luxury department stores and boutiques can be dangerously attractive places for people who can’t afford them.

“There will be people who really should not be in there and they know they should not be there,” says Scott Hannah, CEO of the non-profit Credit Counselling Society.

“They should not be allocating funds for that purpose and they know it. Yet they’ll still make a purchase and some will worry afterwards about how they’re going to make ends meet.”

High-end stores are good at appealing to “those who are up and coming in their own minds, especially young professionals,” Hannah says.

Over the years, the counselling society has helped many people in debt who have maintained a lifestyle beyond their means because they acquire things to look successful, Hannah says.

“We have difficulty saying, ‘Look, I’m not prepared to go into debt to look a certain way and impress people.’”

Millennials, the generation born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, often think of short-term wants rather than long-term needs, he says.

“They have a perspective that ‘I’ll never own a home but, darn it, I’m going to look nice,’” Hannah says.

Hannah worries that some of those who flock to Nordstrom when it opens won’t find the discipline to keep their credit cards in their wallet. People who go with friends who buy high-end items may feel pressured to do so themselves, he says.


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September 9, 2015

LVMH swipes Apple exec for head of digital role in a bid to boost online presence

Cosmetics Design USA
By: Lucy Whitehouse
September 9, 2015

The announcement of the hiring of former Apple executive, Ian Rogers, as LVMH’s new head of digital confirms the luxury goods multinational is rising to meet the promise of e-retailing in the luxury sector.

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August 28, 2015

A Place to Lay Your Bread

The Way That the Rich Travel is Changing
The Economist
August 29, 2015 (Print Edition)

At the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai, one of the world’s most luxurious (pictured), guests can avail themselves of 24-carat gold iPads and caviar facials. The cheapest rooms cost $1,000 a night; those interested in the royal suite can expect to pay nearer $25,000. Such ostentation is not to everyone’s taste. But it illustrates a trend: the way that the rich spend their money is changing.

Once, the well-heeled bought fancy stuff. Nowadays they spend more on things to do and see. A report last year by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that of the $1.8 trillion spent on luxury goods and services worldwide in 2012, nearly $1 trillion went on “luxury experiences”. Travel and hotels accounted for around half that figure.

This partly reflects the growing weight of rich folk from developing countries. Wealthy Chinese spend 20 days a year travelling for leisure, according to ILMT, a travel agency. The most popular destination was Australia, and nearly half made it as far as Europe. On average, affluent Americans went on holiday 3.9 times in 2014, says Resonance, a consultancy, up from 3 times in 2012. Around half travelled more than 1,000 miles (1,600km) for their most recent trip. They favoured Europe, especially Italy, Britain and France.

Antonio Achille of BCG says luxury consumers have distinct spending styles, depending on how old they are and whether they were born rich or became so later. The young and the recently affluent tend to buy visibly costly items that will impress their peers. Soft Living Places, an Italian luxury hotelier, recently filmed an advert to educate newly rich Russian tourists. It offered such advice as “don’t show off by ordering the most expensive bottle of wine on the list.” By contrast, the longer someone has been rich, the more likely he is to value quality over ostentation.

When they travel, rich 20-somethings are drawn toward gregarious pleasures that can be shared on social media to make their friends jealous. But plenty also view holidays as a time to learn something and broaden their cultural horizons, says Chris Fair of Resonance. Though older travellers to India still frequent the Taj or Oberoi hotels, younger ones are more likely to plump for a homeshare—albeit a posh one. The established wealthy spend relatively more on travelling to five-star hotels.

Tapping into this more traditional market is not easy: in some respects, the luxury-hotel business has become commoditised. As the standard at the best establishments has risen, high-paying guests have come to expect a level of service that is ever harder to exceed. “There is only so much caviar and champagne you can throw at them,” says Milton Pedraza of the Luxury Institute, a consultancy. Opulent bathrooms, world-renowned chefs and state-of-the-art technology are now the norm at the poshest hotels.

So differentiation must come from more personalised service. Value is added by “being generous in small ways”, says Frank Marrenbach, the chief executive of the Oetker Collection, a luxury-hotel group. Attentive service means remembering customers’ every preference, either because they have visited before or because the hotel has gathered data from previous trips elsewhere. Equally important is knowing when to step back, says Mr Marrenbach, because for rich guests downtime is also a luxury. At Villa Stephanie, a spa the group runs in Germany, guests can flick a switch in their rooms that blocks all wireless signals to their phones and computers. (Fortunately for paupers who stay in cheaper joints, many of these devices already come with a handy off-switch.)

The established rich, because they own so much stuff, place a high value on doing or feeling something new. According to BCG, they claim to gain three times the emotional reward from an experience, compared with owning something with the same price tag. For luxury-travel retailers, this means that selling fancy add-ons to trips is one of the most lucrative parts of the trade.

Abercrombie & Kent, an upmarket travel agency, for example, arranged for its guests in Egypt to view Queen Nefertari’s tomb, even though its doors had been sealed to the public for decades. In Moscow its clients can attend a private opening of the Kremlin grounds and have lunch with an ex-KGB agent who worked as a spy in London during the cold war. Even when shopping, the experience can matter as much as the acquisition. For some it is important not just to own a Burberry raincoat but also to have bought it from the brand’s flagship London store.

The biggest concern of rich travellers, according to Resonance, is safety. As crime levels have fallen in cities such as London and New York, they have become more appealing to affluent visitors. Metropolitan travel is now as popular as traditional “drop-and-flop” resorts with well-off Americans, says Resonance. Hotels and tour operators catering to the rich must be able to prove their security credentials. Abercrombie & Kent owns its own “destination management companies” in many African and Asian countries, which can respond quickly to problems, including by evacuating guests caught up in Nepal’s recent earthquake.

For the very richest travellers, there is another consideration. Many will go to extraordinary lengths to make far-flung destinations feel like home. Kevin Johnson has worked as a chief-of-staff and palace manager for several billionaires. Some of his employers would even take their favourite bed on their travels, he says. When arranging a holiday on a remote island, his bosses also insisted on their own IT infrastructure, often sending someone ahead to install it. This was partly to ensure security, he says, but also to be sure they could watch their favourite television channels. For the traveller who has everything, the familiar can be the biggest luxury of all.


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August 24, 2015

Affluent Millennials Setting Their Own Pace

U.S. News and World Report
By: Mallory Hughes
August 20, 2015

Chris Beauregard, 25, recently found himself at a chic rooftop pool party in Washington. With the Capitol dome in the background, young professionals watched an exclusive Dar Be Dar by Tala Raassi summer fashion show while sipping complimentary DeLeón Tequila cocktails.

“I brought seven other friends with me,” says Beauregard. “Everybody had a blast.”

It’s a setting that is becoming common for a subset of the Millennial generation known as the “affluent Millennials.”

The 6.2 million 18- to 34-year-olds who report annual household incomes of more than $100,000 are acting out the aspirational lifestyle of their cohort because they have the financial means to do so, said Leah Swartz, a content specialist at FutureCast, a marketing firm focused on Generation Y.

“It’s not that they’re so different from Millennials,” says Swartz. “It’s that they’re acting on these aspirational trends that we see take shape in the general population.”

Many among the 80 million Millennials say that they eat organically and travel frequently, but a majority still live on a limited budget, hitting up big retailers for bargain prices.

Rather than focusing solely on what they can buy, Millennials create experiences and “shareable moments with friends,” Swartz says.

It’s a generation that was the first to embrace trends like going digital and using social, but it is the affluent among it that have more impact because they’re the ones commenting on review sites and engaging with brands on social media.

“We’re seeing them take on the influential role among the Millennial population,” she says, adding that affluent Millennials are 10 percent more likely to participate in online rating sites than their non-affluent peers.

“It’s likely because they can do more and because their budgets allow for it,” Swartz said.

Business and finance are the most common career paths for these people, but affluent Millennials are shifting post-graduate educational trends.

The research found that 44 percent of the 6.2 million affluent Millennials did not graduate from college. Of those that completed college and went on to graduate school, nearly 4 percent didn’t complete that education. While these numbers are high, affluent Millennials still graduate from college and grad programs at higher rates than their non-affluent counterparts.

“When you think of Boomers or even a little bit Gen-X,” Swartz says, “money was very much linked to degrees and higher education.”

But these Millennials don’t necessarily see the connection. FutureCast researchers in Kansas City found that young adults in the affluent subset are more interested in quickly putting the knowledge gained in their undergraduate programs to use in the workforce.

“They’re seeing more value in entrepreneurialism rather than continuing education,” Swartz says.

Billy McFarland, a 23-year-old tech entrepreneur, began his undergraduate education at Bucknell University planning on studying computer engineering. He dropped out after a year.

“I never really focused on school the way I should,” McFarland said in a phone interview. “But I finally went to college, I was living alone, and realized I could start companies full-time and not worry about school. It was an easy decision.”

Most recently, McFarland founded two companies: Spling, a tech-driven advertising platform, and Magnises, a mobile concierge app geared toward Millennials.

Magnises, McFarland says, has nearly 7,000 members stemming from 25,000 applicants. Approximately 90 percent of members using the app are 21 to 35 years old, with self-reported annual incomes of $50,000 to $250,000.

The $250 per year membership comes with a black metal membership card, a community hangout out and the concierge app with recommendations on what to do with one’s free time and the ability to make a reservation at a suggested place.

This generation travels more and values events, services and experiences over goods, says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a global research firm focusing on luxury goods.

One example is SoulCycle, the trendy New York City-based fitness company hosting 45-minute spin classes that feel more like being on a dance floor than in a cycling studio. Millennials aren’t buying the expensive bike so they can go cycle the hillsides outdoors; they’re buying the experience.

Pedraza says he thinks Millennials are drawn to events they can share with “people who are their peers, who share their values, who share their standards of living and who share their tastes.”

But if Millennials are trendsetters, don’t they want to find the best places to go — and be first ones on the scene? Isn’t an app, such as Magnises, that suggests the hottest hangouts in some of America’s biggest cities and sends 20-somethings flocking in that direction kind of, well, mainstream?

“I think there’s recognition that that’s going to inevitably happen,” Pedraza says. “If something’s really good it’s going to be swarmed—Millennials swarmed.”


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August 14, 2015

Millennials’ wealth management preferences differ from boomers: report

Luxury Daily
By: Kay Sorin
August 14, 2015

Millennial investors have different preferences compared to their baby boomer parents when it comes to wealth management, according to a new report by Luxury Institute.

While baby boomers and older generations prefer to work with full-service brokerage firms, wealthy millennials and members of Generation X are showing an increased preference for working with private advisors. Independent financial advisors can offer a more individual approach that is often appealing to younger investors who are accustomed to personalization.

“Independent financial advisors are able to do more things for their clients, because they are not working for a firm that has rules and regulations about what they can or can’t do,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute, New York. “The IFA is the fastest growing industry in wealth management.”

Different strokes
Luxury Institute surveyed investors earning at least $150,000 and found that at least 46 percent used some form of advisor to help them manage their finances. Among respondents aged 65 and over, this number rose to 59 percent.

Michael Kors affluent couple car
Wealthy millennials are inclined to prefer independent wealth managers

Respondents varied in their preferences for an independent wealth manager versus a full-service brokerage firm such as Morgan Stanley or Merrill Lynch. Interestingly, this preference strongly correlated with age.

“A full service firm doesn’t have a fiduciary relationship with the client, meaning that they are not legally obliged to serve the client’s interests only,” Mr. Pedraza said. “They can recommend an investment in which they will make a bigger commission.”

Millennials and members of Generation X and Y, defined as those 45 and younger, showed a significant preference for independent wealth managers compared to full-service brokerage firms. Thirty-eight percent chose to work with individual advisors while 27 percent preferred a big brokerage firm.

Michael Kors case
Millennials have access to more information and are well informed

Investors over 65 were much less likely to work with an independent advisor and only 28 percent reported doing so. They strongly preferred to go full-service with 56 percent using large firms to manage their wealth.

This difference between the generations is likely a result of their upbringing. Baby boomers were raised to expect to work with a big brokerage firm, while millennials may be more wary and distrustful after the recession of 2008.

Sotheby's London Property
Financial advisors can assist in major life decisions such as purchasing a home

Additionally, millennials have more information at hand, which allows them to be more selective with their advisors.

“Millennials are so much more informed that they depend less on a brokerage firm providing them with research,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Millennials don’t need as much because they are so informed.

“They know that very few financial advisors can outperform the market in the long term.”

One way in which individual advisors often distinguish themselves is by providing a more personal connection for clients. Luxury Institute found that expertise, trustworthiness and generosity were the most valued traits in financial advisors.

Affluent family
As millennials age they are in greater need of financial advice

More than numbers
Investors looking for both a personal relationship and a full-service brokerage firm may seek other solutions to find the ideal compromise. Ultra-affluent consumers often appreciate the relationship-building culture fostered at boutique wealth management firms, according to a report by the Luxury Institute.

The New York-based Rockefeller Wealth Management firm received the highest score in the report, followed by Atlanta-based Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management and Convergent Wealth Advisors. As wealth management firms continue to repair their reputations following the financial crisis, prioritizing relationships over transactions will be important (see story).

Regardless of the size of a firm, relationships are often the deciding factor when it comes to choosing a financial advisor. To differentiate themselves from competitors, wealth management companies must make crucial changes that will only work if the alterations are part of the company’s core DNA, according to a speaker from the 2012 Forrester Customer Experience Forum.

It is no longer enough to just return calls and give a great customer experience, since clients at wealth management companies are not even thinking about those that do not require this. Instead, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney was forced to bolster its customer service in terms of technology, getting to know the customer and its consultants (see story).

Looking forward, it is essential for wealth management companies to take personal relationships into account in order to appeal to wealthy millennials.

“Millennials will be keen to stay with those who deliver and will dispense with those who don’t,” Mr. Pedraza said. “They will choose advisors based more on the client’s experience than on the client’s return.

“The baby boomers are kind of exiting the stage. Millennials will demand a far more objective and independent metric.

“Advisors need to be completely trustworthy and very responsive,” he said. “They need to go above and beyond to make the client feel special.”


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August 10, 2015

The Death of the Swiss Fine Timepiece Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

The Lilian Raji Agency
By: Lilian Raji
August 10, 2015

Late last month, Edward Faber, co-owner of Aaron Faber Gallery and author of  American Wristwatches: Five Decades of Style and Design,  Gary Girdvainis, editor of WristWatch magazine and AboutTime magazineand Jeffrey Hess, CEO of Ball Watch USAMilton Pedraza, CEO and Founder of The Luxury Institute, and Jason Alan Snyder, Chief Technology Officer of Momentum Worldwide reconvened Aaron Faber Gallery’s annual Watch Collectors’ Roundtable to debate the question, “Will Smartwatches Disrupt the Swiss Watch Industry?” The Roundtable was moderated by Eleven James CEO, Randy Brandoff.

With the recent  release of a report by market research firm Slice Intelligence announcing that Apple watch sales have declined 90% since their initial launch, the unanimous predictions of the Roundtable panelists has been proven accurate:  no, smartwatches will not disrupt the Swiss watch industry.

What the panelists couldn’t agree on, however, was if smartwatches would impact the industry in any way.

  • Jeff Hess, who also owns Hess Fine Art, noted his customers have been coming in wearing a smartwatch on one wrist and a fine Swiss timepiece on the other.  In this, there seems to be the possibility of harmony between the two types of watches.
  • Edward Faber asserted that a smartwatch will never seem as prestigious as walking into a boardroom wearing a Rolex Presidential or other high status watch.  Smartwatches will only be a gadget.
  • Milton Pedraza agrees on the novelty factor of watches, but didn’t dismiss that smartwatches could ultimately be more a fashion statement than a power statement.
  • Gary Girdvainis predicted that smartwatches would ultimately become gateways for the millennials who gave up watches for their smartphones to now begin entertaining the idea of wearing a watch.  When these same millennials reach their 30s, after spending the last few years wearing a smartwatch, graduating to a Swiss timepiece will be their next step.
  • For tech industry expert, Jason Alan Snyder, smartwatches are about functionality and features.  They are about advancing technology to make our lives easier. The debate shouldn’t be about smartwatches vs timepieces, they should be about smartwatches and all the major advancements going on in technology.

As Randy Brandoff moderated the panel, addressing such issues as the future of the watch industry for collectors, what future technological functions make sense for wristwear and Swiss watch manufacturers pursuing their own smartwatches, panelists made predictions and gave insights that will make many watch, technology and luxury industry people “wait and see” over the next few months as smartwatches set the stage for the evolution of how people tell time.

Click the link to watch the video of the roundtable for quotes by Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute: The Watch Collectors’ Roundtable – Will Smart Watches Disrupt the Swiss Watch Industry?

To learn more about the Roundtable at or contact The Lilian Raji Agency at or (646) 789-4427.

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