Luxury Institute News

December 30, 2014

Hey, big spender: Luxe buyer not who you may think

CNBC
December 29, 2014
By: Krystina Gustafson

Take a minute to picture the stereotypical luxury shopper.

What do you see?

If the vision of a 45-year-old, fur-clad woman immediately comes to mind, you’re making the same mistake as many of the brands targeting high-end buyers.

According to a new study by Epsilon and the Luxury Institute, 57.5 percent of luxury spenders are actually male, and many are of Asian and Middle Eastern descent. But categorizing shoppers by their age, sex and net worth still isn’t enough to get a real gauge on consumers who crave nice things.

The report, which examined 30,000 high-end shoppers, found that luxury brands lose 50 percent of their top customers each year by not correctly identifying them, and thereby failing to create a personalized shopping experience.

According to the study, there are four distinct groups of luxury shoppers for brands to identify, which account not only for net worth, but purchase behavior. They are:

  • “Aspirational” shoppers, who covet luxe brands, but don’t necessarily have the means to purchase them on a regular basis;
  • “Moments of wealth” shoppers, who save up for a certain item, but don’t buy the brand frequently;
  • “Dressed for the part” shoppers, who spend on high-end items to appear as if they live a luxury lifestyle, but may not have the wealth to be a true luxury spender, and
  • “True luxe” shoppers, who can purchase luxury items whenever they want, without financial concern.

“Luxury brands need to truly understand who their customers are and what they are looking for in a luxe shopping experience,” said Jean-Yves Sabot, vice president of retail business development at Epsilon. “This is critical in creating a personalized experience for the customer that drives engagement, retention and satisfaction.”

It’s not just existing customers who are at stake. Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, said luxury brands’ failure to identify potential customers could also discourage consumers who have the money to spend from visiting certain stores, because they feel as if they don’t belong.

She said the reason many luxury brands aren’t well-tuned into their customers is because the industry prides itself on dictating trends, instead of listening to what people want. But communicating with consumers could have some serious benefits.

A recent study by Unity Marketing—which surveyed more than 300 consumers with a minimum net worth of $800,000—found that many wealthy shoppers consider certain luxury brands “overrated.” Luxe mainstays Louis VuittonGucciHermèsPrada and Rolex were at the top of the list.

While some of that could be attributed to each label’s designs, Danziger said the more consumers knew about a brand, the less likely they were to view it as “overrated.”

“The takeaway very simply is that marketing communication aimed at educating the affluent about the luxury brand is very likely to create a positive feeling or halo around the brand, which may well lead to … buying,” according to Unity Marketing.

Source: http://www.cnbc.com/id/102299035#

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Pinterest Focusing On Ads, Education In New Year

MediaPost Communications
December 29, 2014
By: Laurie Sullivan

Pinterest on New Year’s Day plans to begin selling ads on the site to brands at a cost per thousand (CPM) in an effort to better compete for ad dollars with Twitter and Facebook, as well as search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo. Promoted Pins, launched eight months ago to its brand advertisers in beta, will be available to all advertisers beginning in January.

Major upgrades to Promoted Pins that are in the works will give brands new ad formats and advanced targeting features. Pinterest says that early results look promising. Brand advertisers achieved about a 30% increase in earned media from their campaigns in terms of site users who saw a Promoted Pin and thought it was good enough to save to one of their own boards. The average Pin gets repinned 11 times. Brands also see those results, and sometimes higher, from Promoted Pins.

The company said brands using the auction-based cost per click (CPC) model also see success. Many of the self-serve beta partners see gains in traffic and impressions, explains Joanne Bradford, head of partnerships at Pinterest. “We’re still making tweaks to the product and want to make sure we get it just right before we roll it out to all businesses,” she wrote in a blog post.

While brands see success with Pinterest, the company needs to rethink how it competes with other platforms — especially Facebook. The platform attracts consumers who gravitate toward luxury brands like Prada, Manolo Blahnik, and Jimmy Choo. Seven in 10 consumers who prefer luxury items used social media in the past year, but more than half use Facebook, per research from Epsilon and The Luxury Institute. The analysis compares 30,000 luxury shoppers to reveal insights, myths and stereotypes of the luxury shopper. Of those, more than 25% engage with brands or retailers on Facebook. When consumers under the age of 50 are considered, the number rises to 34%.

To compete, Pinterest will teach brands how to best use its platform. Pinstitute was built as a way of teaching marketers how to connect with users, as well as building native ads and measuring the performance. It will give them insight into the types of Pins that perform well, and insight into what Pinterest users care about.

The company also expects feedback on the types of services and features that will help marketers get better results from the platform, so it is inviting a select group of brands and agencies to attend quarterly Pinstitute workshops where they can learn, exchange ideas and meet with the Pinterest product team. The first one is scheduled for March.

Source: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/240837/pinterest-focusing-on-ads-education-in-new-year.html

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December 29, 2014

Luxury Brands Often Misidentify Their Target Consumers

MediaPost Communications
December 26, 2014
By: Steve McClellan

Luxury brands lose 50% of their top customers annually because they routinely misidentify their demographic and economic profile while also failing to create a personalized sales experience for them, according to new research from global marketing and crm agency Epsilon and research and consulting firm The Luxury Institute.

Epsilon analyzed and compared 30,000 luxury shoppers to uncover insights, myths and stereotypes of the luxury shopper, the firm said.

According to the findings, luxury brands mistakenly believe their customers are typically female and on average 45-years old with a net worth over $1 million. However, 57.5% of luxury spenders are in fact male. They are likely to be of Asian and Middle-Eastern descent with a net worth over $500,000. In addition, nearly 13.8% of shoppers with a net worth over $1 million invest mostly in modern, contemporary decor and gifts as opposed to high-ticket apparel items.

“Luxury brands need to truly understand who their customers are and what they are looking for in a luxe shopping experience,” said Jean-Yves Sabot, vice president, retail business development at Epsilon. “This is critical in creating a personalized experience for the customer that drives engagement, retention and satisfaction.”

The report categorizes luxury shoppers into four groups including the so-called “True Luxe” shopper who has the means to purchase luxury items at will without financial concern. But there is also the “Aspirational Shopper,” described as shoppers who “desire to own pieces from a brand, but may not have the means to do so on a regular basis.”

Another group is labeled “Moments of Wealth,” comprised of shoppers that may save for specific piece but do not purchase from the brand frequently. And the “Dressed for the Part” group buys luxury items to give the appearance of someone who lives a luxury lifestyle but often does not have the financial resources to be a true luxury buyer.

The study also found that online shopping accounts for less than a quarter of sales for multichannel luxury retail brands, because these consumers typically want to see and touch the product. While 98% of luxury shoppers use the Internet regularly, more than 50% of the time they are researching products and comparing prices on their mobile devices.

Luxury shoppers “crave the experience of the brand and look for a VIP interaction,”  according to the report.

Recommendations include using insights to tailor marketing communication to the optimal targets for more personalized and relevant communication. Luxury brands also need to do a better job of leveraging external shopper behavior for true one-on-one interaction both in-store and online, the report surmises. They also need to get a complete picture of their consumer target set. Third-party data will help. More on the report can be found here.

Source: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/240785/luxury-brands-often-misidentify-their-target-consu.html

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The Average Luxury Shopper May Surprise You

The Wall Street Journal
December 24, 2014
By: Nathalie Tadena

The average luxury shopper doesn’t look like a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills.

According to a report from marketing agency Epsilon and boutique research and consulting firm Luxury Institute, a true luxury shopper — one that has the financial means to purchase high-end items frequently throughout the year  – is most likely to be an Asian or Middle Eastern single man between the ages of 25 years and 44 years old,  with no children.

Luxury brands have traditionally pitched their products to women over the age of 45 with a net worth more than $1 million, so many have apparently been failing to engage their best customers. Half of luxury brands lose 50% of their top customers every year, the report said.

The study compared the top 30,000 luxury spenders with a yearly spend over $30,000 in specialty retail and average transactions of over $1,200 to the shopping patterns and profiles of individuals with a net worth of more than $1 million and financial resources over $2 million.

According to the research, there are four types of shoppers who buy luxury goods. The “Aspirational Shopper” desires to own pieces from a luxury brand but doesn’t have the means to do so on a regular basis and might turn to an outlet or discount boutique like Rue La La to buy from a luxury brand. The “Moments of Wealth” shopper saves for a specific luxury piece, but doesn’t buy from that luxury brand frequently. The “Dressed for the Part” shopper purchases high-end items but doesn’t have the financial resources to be a true luxury buyer.  The” True Luxe” shopper — a luxury retailer’s best customer — has the financial means to purchase high-end items and purchases from luxury brands frequently throughout the year.

Nearly 60% of these True Luxe shoppers are male and more than half are single, the report found. The True Luxe shopper also has a net worth of more than $500,000.

Luxury shoppers prefer to shop in stores, where they can get VIP treatment from a salesperson and touch and see products in person, the study said.  Online shopping represents less than a quarter of sales for multi-channel luxury retail brands.

A rude or inattentive salesperson is the biggest reason that a consumer won’t come back to a particular luxury brand, said Luxury Institute Chief Executive Milton Pedraza. Only 10% to 15% of luxury customers said they have a first-name relationship with a sales professional, according to the report.

Brands that use information about an individual consumer’s buying habits and preferences during in-store visits can create a stronger buying relationship, the researchers said.

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/cmo/2014/12/24/the-average-luxury-shopper-may-surprise-you/ 

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December 11, 2014

Where Has All the Luxury Gone?

By: Judith Russell
December 8, 2014
The Robin Report

 

We in the industry have been bandying about the term “luxury” pretty freely of late, but there is growing realization that if a product or brand is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive, it’s not really a “luxury” product. And the minute you add the term “affordable,” it becomes an oxymoron.

As the ever-widening income inequality gap illustrates, the rich are still getting richer. According to Pew Research, the top 1% of households in the US, or those making $400K or more annually, earn 23% of the total income in the country, and control 35% of the net worth. Both figures have been steadily growing for more than a decade.

One ever-present behavior in the spending habits of the superrich of any generation is opting for the special over the mundane. Makers of high-end jewelry and electronics, cars, exotic vacation hotels, and other products and services target this group of discerning consumers for a reason: They value, and are willing to pay a steep premium for, that which is appreciated by and accessible to only an elite few.

Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, a research firm that tracks and advises the global luxury goods market, says that consumers consistently define luxury as the best of design, quality, craftsmanship, and service. Brands that always deliver against these attributes, including Audemars Piguet, Chanel, and Buccellati, also tend to have a compelling brand heritage story.

Dumbing Down the High End

So where is true luxury retailing today? The high end is on a steady course down market. Nordstrom, Neiman’s and Saks are slowly evolving into off-pricers, expanding their Rack, Last Call and Off Fifth concepts much faster than their full-line businesses. This is eroding their credibility as purveyors to the elite, since one of the strongest pillars of luxury is pricing integrity. But Wall Street can be pretty unforgiving. In order to satisfy investors, these businesses must grow. Opportunity for organic growth is limited, due to intensified competition and more demanding consumers.

Look at the auto market. Mercedes, BMW and Audi are all adding cheaper models to the low ends of their product lines. You can’t turn on the radio without hearing an ad for their affordable lease deals, wooing us to experience a taste of luxury at a discounted price.

iStock_000041221106Large

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that many luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermès, Burberry and Dolce and Gabbana are now bypassing their retail partners and going direct to consumers, launching their own e-commerce sites and brick-and-mortar stores. The fastest way the Nordstroms and Neiman-Marcuses of the world can grow sales and earnings is to trade down. But they can only do this for so long before becoming known primarily for their discounting, the kiss of death in luxury.

Ubiquity Erodes Exclusivity

Then there are the outlet stores. Many of the veteran brand leaders, such as Coach, Tiffany, Michael Kors, and Ralph Lauren, are finding that they’ve tapped out the full-price specialty market opportunity and are now growing exponentially by expanding their outlet store footprints. Overexpansion breeds ubiquity, ultimately the downfall of premium brands whose hallmark is limited distribution.

Ubiquitous availability in outlet stores also compromises perception of pricing integrity. “Wealthy people are smart,” says The Luxury Institute’s Pedraza. “They’re willing to pay a high price for the best, as long as it’s fair, but they don’t want to get taken advantage of.” Also, many of the leading industry bloggers are of the opinion that much of the merchandise in luxury outlets has never seen a full-price store. It is, they believe, a lower level of design, quality and craftsmanship created specifically for the outlet, and carries faux full-price tags that are then reduced to obfuscate their real value. This breaks another rule of luxury, authenticity.

The New Luxury Customer

In what used to be the high-end luxury sector, a big, gaping void is forming, ripe for the filling by a new breed of luxury brands. Several key factors are contributing to this opportunity.

  • Millennials, who will account for 30% of all retail sales by the year 2020, according to Pew Research, are an increasingly important force in the marketplace. They are already wielding tremendous influence in retail, demanding more elevated, contemporary and technology-driven products and experiences. They are forcing retailers to offer better high-tech, high-touch engagement and greater personalization.
  • Many high-end consumers are beginning to show a distinct preference for experiences over things, having become sated with too much “stuff.” This is driving growth in segments like the ultra-luxury travel industry. These experiential customers are also demanding a meaningful brand connection that elevates the products they buy with an emotional investment. We know that a unique personal experience will make it more likely for that consumer to become a loyal customer.
  • A group of consumers has moved away from playing it safe and shopping with the flock to desiring more individualized offerings. Leading fashion-trend forecaster David Wolfe of Doneger says, “Bye-bye mainstream, hello to thousands of tiny consumer tribes.” And these tribal members are demanding fresh, frequent new products and experiences that can be customized, personalized and unique.

The New Face of Luxury

The next generation of luxury brands, I predict, will focus on meeting the needs of a relatively small, yet potentially profitable group of consumers. The brands will deliver quality of workmanship, authenticity of design and materials, and customized fit and trims. Whether casual or dressy, products will be limited in availability. There will be no sales, no coupons, no department store gatekeepers, and no need to get big fast. These brands will need to reach critical mass of between $500 million and $1 billion to generate sufficient profit and cash flow, while remaining exclusive, premium, and ultra-special. Needless to say, service—or its newest moniker, customer relationship building—will be out of this world.

Does this sound like the couture world of times past? You bet it does. But there will be differences enabled by 21st century technology. Brands will use digital tools, including big data, to develop and maintain an intimate relationship with their consumers and engage them on a personal level.

Curated offerings of products and services will be created especially for customers who opt into the relationship. Brands will use store-scanned measurements of their customers’ bodies to deliver a perfect fit. With geo-fencing and other technological capabilities, companies will know where their customers are and where they’re going—even going so far as to deliver a fresh wardrobe to their client’s hotel while on vacation. Sound futuristic? The technology exists today.

Who will be included in the next generation of the luxury elite? Brands like Elizabeth and James, Tom Ford, Bottega Veneta come to mind. The extent to which they succeed in creating luxury businesses with staying power depends on how well they can deliver on their product, service, and customer engagement features, and how well they can rise above the relentless discounting fray that is decimating brands today.

The luxury brands of tomorrow will be privately-owned and managed by a team possessing design genius, marketing savvy, financial prowess and technological wizardry. They will view their work as the intersection between art and science. They will control every phase of the value proposition from product conception to delivery, with customer focus front-and-center every step of the way. These innovators will not think of their businesses in terms of the products they sell or distribution channels, but rather in terms of serving their affinity tribe, a community of customers that share similar values and a passion for the brand, bordering on obsession.

So, back to Wall Street, these guys may not pay any attention to these businesses because they will be privately held. But there’s little doubt in my mind that they’ll become personally invested in the luxury brands of the future—by becoming some of their best tribal customers.

Source: http://therobinreport.com/where-has-all-the-luxury-gone/?utm_source=The+Robin+Report&utm_campaign=c3d66eab66-Where_Has_All_the_Luxury_Gone_12_10_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e90268c709-c3d66eab66-201755673

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December 1, 2014

Marketer of the Year: Stuart Weitzman

By: Irene Park
Women’s Wear Daily
December 1, 2014

Click on the link to read the entire article (subscription required): http://www.wwd.com/footwear-news/markets/marketer-of-the-year-stuart-weitzman-8049600?gnewsid=a161467a3da489b5897b97c969ca7fb8

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November 22, 2014

Astronaut Mark Kelly talks watches at South Coast Plaza

By: Lisa Liddane
OC Register
November 23, 2014

The former Space Shuttle and combat pilot lends his credibility to Breitling’s timepieces.

As ambassadors of luxury timepieces go, Mark Kelly is as antithetical to the prevailing celebrity mold as it gets. He travels without an entourage, can walk into South Coast Plaza and blend into the crowd – as he did recently, and does not pose in any advertisements for Breitling.

Perhaps that’s a good thing.

The retired astronaut and decorated Navy pilot brings to the 130-year old Swiss brand two important things that actors Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman and Leonard DiCaprio, for all their onscreen talent, bankable pulchritude and high-wattage glamour, cannot provide to the watch brands they represent: gravitas, authenticity and credibility.

Kelly’s résumé includes flying 39 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm and traveling more than 22 million miles through space, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“Mark Kelly has such a great reputation for integrity – he’s an all-American space hero,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of the Luxury Institute, a boutique research and consulting company. Breitling, which calls its timepieces “instruments for professionals,” has had a long-standing relationship with the aviation industry, Pedraza said. Kelly is the ideal brand representative who appeals to a specific segment of luxury watch customers who prize accuracy, innovative technical features or aviation-related components.

Kelly visited the South Coast Plaza Tourneau boutique, which has a dedicated Breitling wing, to launch the new Cockpit B50, a chronograph specially developed for pilots. He sat down with the Register to discuss his history with Breitling and how watches are practical instruments of measurement for him. Here are highlights from that conversation:

Orange County Register: I understand you were wearing a different watch brand during your first space flight.

Mark Kelly: I wore a different one, which shall remain nameless, a pretty high-end watch that didn’t work.

OCR: What happened?

MK: It had a little issue. The second hand got stuck on the minute hand (chuckles), which is not a good thing when you need the second hand to time something at an important part of the space flight … that was the only time I wore that watch.

OCR: Did you buy a new one?

MK: I got a Breitling from a friend of mine.

OCR: What did you know about Breitling at the time?

MK: I always wanted one. I knew it was a watch for aviation and was very reliable and probably wasn’t very well known as some of the other brands, but it’s a product that’s really made for pilots.

OCR: The accuracy of the watches seems to be a big selling point, and I would guess that for you, it is.

 

MK: Yeah, it is, especially in my career as an aviator … time was incredibly important. In the airplane that I flew, you needed to be able to constantly do the math in your head, but use the watch, your distance and your airspeed to figure out, are you behind or are you ahead of getting the target on time … you would break it down into six second increments. Why six seconds? Do you know why?

OCR: Why?

MK: Because it’s a tenth of a minute, it’s easier to do the math. The accuracy of the minute hand and the second hand is key to being able to do your route. And it’s sort of like that for space flight, too. You need an accurate watch because you’re doing a lot of critical things on time.

OCR: You’ve worn Breitling since about 2006. As a veteran, pilot and an astronaut, did you ever imagine you would be a face of a luxury watch company?

MK: No (laughs). When I had my first Breitling watch I had no relationship with the company. I just wore them. Before my last flight (into space), the Association of Naval Aviation contacted me to ask me to fly a Breitling watch that was going to be given to President Bush “41″. It was the centennial year of naval aviation, so I took that watch into space, took a bunch of pictures in space.

The plan wasn’t set on who to give it to. There was a thought about giving it to President Obama, the current president. People went, well, President Bush is a naval aviator. At the end of the day, they decided to auction it off and they gave the money to a school in Pensacola that uses Naval aviation to teach kids math and science. It went to a much better cause. The watch went for like, $60,000.

OCR: As for the new Cockpit B50, are there any features in it that you find interesting?

MK: If I was flying in combat again, that’s the watch I would buy. It’s a SuperQuartz movement, thermocompensated … it’s incredibly accurate. If you turn your wrist, the light will come on. So imagine you’re flying an airplane at night, you don’t have to take your hand off the throttle … it has a regular alarm that’s a tone, but also has one that vibrates like your phone so you can feel it. It’s nice to use in space where it’s so loud – all the fans, pumps and everything.

OCR: How many Breitling watches do you have now?

MK: Oh, I don’t know. I have several … most are locked up in a safe.

OCR: Which one is your favorite?

MK: The one I’m wearing – right now. … This is a Navitimer 1461. It’s got dates, days of the week, the month and it’s got the moon phase. It’s really kind of cool. It has to be reset only once every leap year (or every 1,461 days). So you really have to adjust it only every four years.

Source: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/watch-643086-space-breitling.html

 

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November 14, 2014

Nordstrom Always Outperform the Competition

In The Loop
Bloomberg TV
November 14, 2014

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/nordstrom-always-outperform-the-competition-VAqcMyQMQCGBrEqrAnNYrA.html

Luxury Institute’s Founder and CEO Milton Pedraza discusses luxury retail on “In The Loop.”

(Source: Bloomberg)

 

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November 11, 2014

Luxury Institute’s Seven Trends Shaping Luxury in 2015

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – Nov 11, 2014) – The following is a White paper by Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute, LLC:

All around the globe, the luxury industry has navigated against strong headwinds in 2014. Growth in China has slowed due to government crackdowns and macroeconomic forces, Russian clients are buying far less for obvious reasons, and key European countries dependent on streams of wealthy tourists and aspirational buyers have also stalled. The situation is comparatively better in the United States and in Japan but both nations are growing far below their long-term economic potential. To these cyclical challenges, add in the secular change of online buying cannibalizing store and it has been a tough year for most luxury goods and services providers.

There are exceptions to the rule of sluggish sales. Despite the challenges, pure-play luxury brands like Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, and Hermès continue to innovate and make necessary investments to retain their status as luxury brands. No one is immune to market forces. Luxury will always be cyclical, but the real danger for brands that we see comes from self-inflicted wounds caused by the inability to accept new realities and failure to execute. Doing either of these far too slowly is also dangerous.

Looking ahead, the future has the potential to be very bright for luxury. Providing high-end goods and services to wealthy customers will remain a growth industry in volume, and value, for decades to come. What’s crucial now is rapid adaptation to evolving market realities. Powerful forces are affecting the luxury industry right now and remind us that we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The time to implement change is now.

We work with dozens of top-tier global luxury brands each year and live in the headquarters and stores of our clients. Based on recent experiences and dialogues, here are seven trends and issues that enlightened luxury brands need to address in 2015:

1. There Are Too Many Luxury Brands For A Slow-Growth Environment

There are too many luxury and premium brands in the world. Our industry has too many hotel chains, too many handbags and apparel producers, too many automotive providers, too many wealth managers, too many watch and jewelry makers and too many private jet charter companies. Name an industry and you’ll likely find a staggering number of brands purporting to be premium. Many have global ambitions.

There are too many “luxury” brands, but not enough great ones. Most are pure copycats. This does not even take into account all the fearless start-ups trying to disrupt the industry.

In 2015, look for many more large, medium and start-up brands to stall, or fail, at a faster rate than over the last few years. Affluent consumers, chased to exhaustion, are swamped by too many me-too options in every category. It will be time for true luxury brands to stop benchmarking the mundane players, understand their own brand identity, values, and standards, and get back to delivering differentiated, fully-priced value in 2015.

2. Comparable Store And E-commerce Sales Are The Critical Metrics

One recurring theme we hear in luxury boardrooms is that any run-of-the mill luxury brand can open stores, including outlets, globally to increase sales. In the current environment, it takes true leadership competence to drive significant comparable store sales. Foot traffic into stores is down 20% to 30% year-over-year for many luxury brands. E-commerce has scarcely made up the difference.

Look for luxury brands in 2015 to stop opening stores completely, even close some, and focus surgically on pinpointing true opportunities to open profitable new stores. The three mantras of luxury economics in 2015 will be: driving new valuable clients to online and offline channels, dramatic increases in conversion, and profitable retention of all high potential clients, not just the VIPs.

3. Not Only Best Practices, Best Execution

Dr. Atul Gawande, a Harvard surgeon and author who has studied how the highest performers in many fields achieve results, has written that the biggest differentiator in medicine and business today is not learning new best practices but executing on a core set of known best practices. For example, hospital infections proliferate today in most hospitals even though medical personnel are fully aware how they can be prevented. Failure to execute best practices consistently is the single biggest impediment of increasing sales and profits in the luxury industry.

Luxury today is full of highly experienced marketing, sales, e-commerce, operations and human resources executives who know exactly how to execute best practices. Unfortunately, many of these leaders show up at the office daily and fail to inspire, empower, measure and reinforce these best practices. In 2015, look for boards of directors to require measurable results from their teams as the hyper-competitive environment requires going from experienced to expert, from delusion to execution.

4. Transforming Store Managers Into Entrepreneurs

Everyone who understands luxury retail agrees unequivocally that the store manager is the backbone of any operation. Despite this wide recognition, many store managers are disempowered into becoming little more than glorified administrators and bureaucrats. They stay in small offices all day counting inventory and pounding out reports that can be automated in a flash.

There is a crisis of management in luxury, but it is not primarily in the executive suite. It is among the store manager ranks. Luxury brands need to attract, retain, educate and empower store managers to become a new breed of entrepreneur within the luxury brand. In 2015, look for top-tier luxury brands to focus resources to dramatically increase the formal education, empowerment and incentives of store managers to generate business by using public relations, digital assets, events, social media, and other tools to drive traffic and sales to stores daily. These local entrepreneurs will unleash a new era of “freedom with boundaries” in the luxury world.

5. Brands Are Finally Getting Serious About Human Relationships

We believe that the concept of a luxury brand having a relationship with its customers without continuous human to human engagement is highly overrated, if not an outright mirage. Last year we told you the online personal shopper was a critical and urgent evolving concept in the luxury world. One of the few brands that executed this concept was mainstream retailer Zappos. Others like Net-A-Porter reserve this concept for VIP clients.

In the coming year, look for more brands to finally begin building deeper relationships with large percentages of online and multi-channel customers. Although resources are scarce, brands should build intimate relationships with, at a minimum, their top 20% to 40% of clients.

Also, and very importantly, look for luxury brands to empower store sales associates who have multi-channel clients to reach out and build human relationships after the client purchases in any channel. For this to happen, digital assets and insights must empower sales associates in real time, and compensation structures will need to reflect the nature of a multi-channel relationship. In 2015 we are extremely optimistic that the economic conditions will force brands to get moving on building better client relationships rooted in personal interaction rather than impersonal algorithms.

6. CEO Change Will Accelerate Again In The Luxury Industry

During the recessionary years of 2008 and 2009 CEO changes were widespread as desperate times called for desperate measures. This time the change lacks desperation, but it will be just as profound. Demographics will drive change in the executive suite as baby boomer CEOs gracefully step down at a rapid clip. We experienced several CEO changes toward the end of 2014, and we expect to see many more in 2015.

In times of change, luxury brands look for more skilled and effective leaders. Enlightened boards of directors at major conglomerates and private equity firms are looking for a new breed of highly collaborative and effective team builders. Inspiration is needed more than perspiration to lead associates to execute brilliantly across segments and channels. Companies expect measurable execution in 2015, and they will get it, one way or another. Given the demographics of luxury, expect more women and diversity candidate CEOs to thrive in 2015, all to the benefit of our industry.

7. Think Less Facebook, More Pinterest

Let’s face it, in its current format, Facebook is of marginal value for luxury brands. Gathering millions of likes and online fans has not been a formula for rapid sales growth in luxury. Success stories have been few and far between despite the lemming-like response from unenlightened digital executives and their agency partners. True luxury buyers are far more discerning. Engagement in luxury requires a one-to-one conversation, not a megaphone.

Social media can certainly serve a useful purpose. Sites and apps like Pinterest and Instagram that engage visually have a far better chance of success for the eye-candy offerings of many luxury brands. Look for localized and personalized efforts to thrive within these highly engaging media and look for the leading edge brands to empower all front-line associates to post their favorites in a brand-sanctioned way. In this way, a brand can engage clients and prospects in rich, honest dialogue that builds relationships and boosts sales.

The luxury industry is healthy, but those who anticipate change will have a decided advantage. Many luxury goods and services brands enter 2015 with false confidence and may only realize too late that the world has changed. Enlightened brands are jumping off of the cresting wave, and onto an emerging wave to drive sales and profits in 2015.

We welcome your opinions and comments. Please see below for our contact information.

Visit us at www.LuxuryInstitute.com and contact us at luxinfo@luxuryinstitute.com

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November 5, 2014

Luxury training becomes fashionable MBA accessory

By: Deirdre Kelly
The Globe and Mail
November 5, 2014

When Christal Agostino was pursuing her MBA a few years ago, she had a deluxe classroom – a Hermès boutique in Paris.

In the rarefied edifice devoted to luxury shopping, the Montreal native had to learn the intricacies of the high-end marketplace. But the focus was not on the legendary brand’s crocodile handbags, some costing as much as a car, nor on its famous silk scarves, produced since 1937 and coveted worldwide.

It was on the sales staff, paragons of discretion, and how they interacted with customers of Hermès’ pricey goods.

“The way they handled the merchandise – the way they wrapped it and presented it to the customer, walking from behind the counter to hand it to them – was incredibly fascinating to me,” Ms. Agostino says. “They were creating a curated experience within the luxury experience. Nothing was done haphazardly.”

Lesson learned.

Ms. Agostino had completed her one-year, full-time MBA at Queen’s School of Business in Kingston and was in France at the time to expand her degree to include a specialization in international luxury brand management at École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales, better known as ESSEC.

The French business school, in collaboration with LVMH and L’Oréal Luxe, launched the specialization in 1995 to provide the high-end companies with a talent pool from which they could recruit, particularly in developing markets. Queen’s became an exchange partner with ESSEC in 2006. So far, about 180 students have gone back and forth between the schools.

“The ESSEC MBA in international luxury brand management was the first MBA program of its kind to exist worldwide,” ESSEC spokeswoman Anthea Davis says.

The program is 11 months long and is offered at two campuses in France and one in Singapore.

“It is today the reference worldwide in international luxury brand management education. We now work with all major luxury groups and independent houses worldwide,” Ms. Davis adds.

Milton Pedraza is the chief executive officer of the Luxury Institute, launched 11 years ago in New York, and he says there’s a growing need for specialized training in the luxury sector.

“Luxury is different from mainstream retail – the level of design, the level of quality, the level of relationship-building are all much higher than any other business segments,” Mr. Pedraza says.

“You are dealing with the affluent and the wealthy who have special needs and requirements and who are paying a very high premium for their goods and services. So the level of expertise required to deliver that value proposition must be taught and learned.”

Since ESSEC’s program launched 20 years ago, specialized MBAs in luxury brand management have grown in popularity. They are also now offered at the Bologna Business School, in the Italian city that’s home to brands such as Lamborghini and Maserati; the International University of Monaco; the NYU Stern Business School in New York; and the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy, to name some.

Most concentrate on a single facet of luxury, such as design and marketing. Others boost technological skills. Fashion in the digital age has become instant and a luxury goods education today includes video and social media training.

“Historically, luxury has seemingly been quite old fashioned and formulaic to its approach to business. However, with swift changes in technology, social media, e-commerce and expansion to emerging markets, we are seeing that luxury is now evolving and adapting rapidly,” says Nicole McBride, office manager at Lambert and Associates, a retail network company with offices in Paris, London, New York, Milan and Florence, Italy.

“With change comes a demand for a new talent pool that can provide a fresh approach.”

Canadian fashion entrepreneur Diane Robinson is the co-founder of the Huntress jewellery and luxury handbag, which made its debut recently at the Spring 2015 edition of World MasterCard Fashion Week in Toronto. In advance of launching her own business with partner Ron LeBlanc, she took the year-long luxury brand management MBA at the University of Monaco, graduating in 2011.

“You need both the language of business and luxury to compete in this field,” Ms. Robinson says. “Our aim was to have a fully vertically integrated business and I needed to know every part of the business, from the rough to the runway.”

The ESSEC MBA offers several specializations within its luxury brand program: fashion and accessories; fragrances and cosmetics; watches and technology; hotels and property.

Being broadly focused is what attracted Jessica Wang, another Canadian at ESSEC, currently enrolled.

“I have always had a passion for the luxury industry in general and when I found out about this program … , I was very intrigued,” Ms. Wang writes in an e-mail from Cergy-Pontoise, France, where she has lived since September.

“I did a lot of research on similar programs offered by many other schools and found the one offered by ESSEC to be the most comprehensive. It does not concentrate on just one area of the luxury industry such as fashion and accessories; instead it also explores in detail other areas: wine and spirits, watches and jewellery, and cosmetics,” she says.

Prior to becoming a student again, Ms. Wang worked for L’Oréal Group in Canada. When she graduates from ESSEC in 2015, she hopes to work in the fashion and accessories sector. She has a good chance of meeting her goal.

Since ESSEC’s founding in 1995, its 560 graduates have gone on to work for every major luxury group and independent luxury companies worldwide, including LVMH, Kering, Richemont, Estée Lauder, Tod’s Group, Zegna, Chanel and Hermès.

“We have a 95-per-cent success rate of students finding employment in the luxury goods industry upon graduation,” Ms. Davis at ESSEC says.

Ms. Agostino took courses in all aspects of a luxury brand, including retail design, licensing, wholesaling, and the psychology behind an expensive purchase.

Her teachers included the former managing director of Giorgio Armani France: “He brought a wealth of information, a lot of real-time stories,” says Ms. Agostino.

After she graduated from ESSEC in 2011, Ms. Agostino, 30, returned to Canada and landed a job in Toronto at the global office of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, where she worked on creating luxury partnerships.

In the spring of this year, she moved to Spafax, an international media and marketing agency that works with major airlines such as Air Canada and British Airways as well as Mercedes-Benz and other luxury brands. She produces their videos and glossy magazines.

“The story-telling behind the brand is what I love,” says Ms. Agostino, crediting her specialized MBA program for giving her a heightened awareness of luxury as a layered category of consumer goods.

“A Hermès purse is very beautiful, a piece of art. But there’s also a story behind it, what it represents as a luxury good, and what it means to the person buying it. It’s a piece of their ego, a part of their personal brand.”

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/business-education/luxury-training-becomes-fashionable-mba-accessory/article21438951/

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