Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Insatiable Luxury in China

luxury in china

Peninsula Shanghai image from www.sienacharles.com

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera

We’ve all read about the boom in sales of luxury products in China. But nothing prepared me for the reality — the quantity and size of stores of the big names in luxury brands. Staying at The Peninsula Beijing, within two blocks there were several Chanel stores, one larger than the next. Within the hotel itself, besides the entrance being flanked by Chanel and Louis Vuitton shops, there’s a two story arcade exclusively with all the big brands. And this is repeated throughout the city.  Curiously, walking past the shops there was seldom anyone inside. Why? Our guide said that wealthy clients get the brochure of the new collection (or see it online), call the shop, and have the item or items sent to their residences much as mere mortals would order take out food.

I asked the same guide why there weren’t more top Chinese fashion designers. She said why would anyone buy a local fashion brand and pay a lot for a name no one knows. Anyone in the luxury business should not miss a visit to the “knock off” multi-leveled emporiums – the Silk Market in Beijing and several in Shanghai. It’s fascinating to see what brands are being counterfeited besides the obvious – Hermes, LVMH, Prada, etc. Beats headphones and speakers seem to be “hot” items. No wonder Apple recently announced a possible purchase of Beats. It was also interesting to see how luxury brands have to quickly come out with new lines to stay ahead of the counterfeiters. Of course new models help fuel purchases but you can’t help thinking that in any case, this counterfeiting greatly debases the brand.

Speaking of luxury and hotels, I also had a chance to see the latest in hotel technology in action by the master, Peninsula. At the hotel in Shanghai, here are some of the picks for top features:

  • Built in “nail dryer” in the dressing room
  • VOIP for free international calls
  • Humidity control for the guest rooms
  • Preset internet radio channels
  • A Yamaha speaker built into a lacquered cabinet, totally unobtrusive
  • And then the bathtub that even they have taken up a notch: luxuriate in the tub watching tv, having a conference call by speaker phone, choosing your favorite spa music, and more

All this being said I kept asking if and when the bubble will burst. As someone said, throughout the country there are thousands and thousands of unoccupied apartments bought for speculation (said one friend, in China the crane is the national bird). Makes for an unstable situation, no?

Gold Shines in Marketing

The price of gold just registered its lowest point in two years, below $1300 an ounce. But it still has, and will always have the allure of wealth, sumptuousness, and the “wow” factor. No surprise, then, that with the readvent of conspicuous consumption that I wrote about last week, luxury products and services are once again getting on the bandwagon, using gold as a key ingredient to add cachet and generate “buzz”. Case in point, a new restaurant in Miami called Gold and Pepper which I just featured in my blog, www.miamicurated.com , has 23 karat gold leaf in everything from ravioli and lobster salad to brownies.

Skin care line Orogold which put itself on the map with 24 karat gold infused moisturizers will soon introduce a 24K Gold Caviar Collection (from $3000) which will use anti-oxidant rich fish eggs as its other big selling point. They weave a story around Greek and Chinese history and the place of gold for its “luxuriousness and beautifying properties”. The list goes on — 51 Buckingham Gate in London has a 24 karat gold afternoon tea where, not only does the beverage pay homage to gold (Luxur pure gold 24 Brut champagne with gold flakes), but the pastries and even the jelly. Then of course there are over the top expensive cocktails and get this — 23 karat gold chocolate bacon. The moral of the story? When you want to add some cachet, gold is always a good bet even if it may not be such a good bet as an investment these days.

Luxury Marketing Trend 2013: Upgrade Product, Price Point

An interesting article in Luxury Briefing documented a repositioning trend with upmarket brands.In an about face, a luxury marketing trend 2013, major  players are making strategic moves to switch emphasis from entry level and aspirational products to those driving sales of higher end goods and price points. It’s all about raising the quality and exclusivity, as they look to price rather than volume to be the revenue driver.  We’ve  documented in KWE’s trends letters how the anti-brand movement continues to grow, especially in retail, where counterfeit goods have weakened the appeal of logo merchandise.  Both Louis Vuitton and Gucci report particular sales success with their non- monogrammed products, with Gucci’s leathergoods and exotic skin items posting double digit growth last year.  The big names are looking to slow the rate of new store growth, preferring to concentrate on improving profit margins in existing locations and seeing this as an opportunity to prevent excessive inventory which leads to big markdowns. Raising opening price points, they all would agree,  also enhances upmarket positioning which helps with the most robust segment of the affluent market, hyper luxury . In a similar vein, there’s also a push toward more made-to-order and bespoke in everything from leathergoods and watches to jewelry and fragrance, all available at higher price points of course.

Online Shopping of the Affluent

It’s no secret that consumers have increased their spending online. In 2009, comScore, a leader in measuring the digital world, reported holiday season retail e-commerce spending topped just $20 billion. Not too shabby until you compare it to this year’s report of $42 billion – a 110% increase.

A recent article on online spending had us thinking: Do the online shopping trends translate to the affluent consumer? YES! Perhaps even more so… According to the article in Luxury Daily, “Affluent consumers are 40 percent* more likely to make a purchase on a luxury retail Web site compared to non-affluent consumers.”

One of those websites catering to the extremely rich – The Billionaire Shop.

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