Insight into Luxury-loving Consumers

A thorough look at the demographics, behaviors, and shopping patterns of luxury-loving and affluent consumers was revealed November 15 at Unity Marketing’s First Annual 2002 Luxury Home Conference in Newark, N.J. The Stevens, Pa.-based research firm presented its program to a gymnasium-sized room packed with executives from various segments of the luxury goods sector.

Pam Danziger, head of Unity Marketing, presented detailed results of her most recent focus groups of affluent female consumers nationwide. Results showed that more than a third of luxury consumers’ spending is earmarked for items for the home, where the top three categories are high-end electronics, garden goods, and furniture and floor coverings. Her findings showed that luxury players must stay on top of fashion trends to compete, and that the “intellectual property” of brands will continue to play a big role in purchases. She also said the next big trend in luxury is service. “Products have plateaued in luxury,” observes Danziger. “Consumers are looking for an experience.”

House and Garden senior editor Brooke Stoddard offered a slide presentation and discussion of style preferences of luxury consumers. Among home collectibles, “treasures–including crystals–from the earth,” are very popular, says Stoddard. Other trends in home luxury are decadent bedrooms and at the opposite end of the spectrum, simplicity: “It could be a glass of water, or it could be a cold glass of water that you drink every morning from a fine crystal glass that sits on a nightstand in your bedroom,” says Stoddard.” Additional insights include:

* Visuals of varying textures and colors

* Pinks, reds, yellows, oranges, and more primary colors; berry colors continue for spring 2003

* Provenance: history of pieces

* Black and white

* Marriages of old and new materials

Ken Nisch, chairman of the Michigan-based design firm, JGA, discussed the casualization of the luxury experience. “Consumers know that consumption is okay–it’s conspicuous consumption that’s not.” He encouraged attendees to tell stories with their products to envelop consumers in the brand. “The democratization of luxury or the consumer revolution we’re seeing [at the mass merchants] is a way to introduce mass shoppers to a brand and they can move up [to the more costly brand segment] later.”

What’s important for all brands is to build a habitat to house your brand, he said. “When you talk about remodeling, retailers can always build on their customers’ experiences.” With the casualization of retail environments, stores are now being built to feel like shoppers’ homes, with salespersons acting as “service workers.” Other trends in the casualization of luxury:

* Products serving as props

* Discreetly placed price tags (more luxurious)

* Habitats housing brands

* Scripted retail experiences

* Brand expansions (build “a world” of your brand)

* Connections–mythical, ethical, and emotional

Demographics expert Susan Mitchell spoke about U.S. households with incomes of at least $100,000. Affluence in America tends to be concentrated in the 35-44 and the 45-54 age groups. “Generational trends are driving change in the luxury market,” says Mitchell. Boomers want to be entertained, they want authentic experiences, and they want youthful, fun products because of their desire for self-expression. And though ethnic groups may not comprise a big percentage of the U.S. now, their importance in the future will grow. While educational levels differ among ethnic households where incomes exceed $100,000, a common factor is work habits: “They work very hard,” says Mitchell.

For more research on luxury consumers or for information about next year‘s conference, visit www.unitymarketingonline.com or call Unity Marketing at (717) 336-1600.