Paula Peterson: ‘Listen to the Market’

Trend analyst, In Store magazine writer, and industry consultant Paula K. Peterson, of Crown Luxury Consulting, presented “Best of Class, Retailer and Client.” Peterson defined “best of class” as “being open to new ideas,” “seeking out exceptional product,” and “inspiring performance.”

Best-of-class products have elements of originality (Peterson cited Van Cleef & Arpels, James de Givenchy, Robert Wander of Winc Creations, and Mish), style (Cartier, Irene Neuwirth, and Dominique Cohen), value (Tiffany, Jeanine Payer, and Dogeared), and experience (Bulgari Hotel Bali and the John Hardy Collection).

In order to maintain marketplace relevance, Peterson said it’s important to “grow with the market, change with the times, and evolve with a new generation of consumers.” Peterson, a baby boomer herself, touched on the values of her generation, but said Gen X (ages 26–43) and especially Gen Y (ages 11–25) are the “ones to watch” as modern luxury consumers.

Peterson also noted emerging trends, including the return of the lady and feminine style, use of white, punches of color (lavender being the No. 1 color, with translucent pastels on the horizon), nostalgia and model heirlooms, personalization and monograms, return to ancient civilizations and iconic techniques, revival of sun and starburst icons, altruistic causes and creating a bridge to a new world, mixing technology, and the indie movement of Gen Y.

Peterson stressed the importance of looking at your brand in 360 degrees, and knowing your core competencies, i.e., “where the bull’s-eye is.” This includes your products (which must all “dovetail back to your mission statement”), promotion, and customer service (“Personalized service will never go out of style…even if you make the bridge to the Net”). But Peterson warned: “Proceed with caution—there is a difference between moving with the market and sudden reaction, which can actually weaken brand position.”

Peterson recommended three books essential to understanding the luxury market: Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas, Shopping: Why We Love It and How Retailers Can Create the Ultimate Customer Experience by Pamela N. Danziger, and Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy by Paco Underhill.

Peterson’s philosophy centers on receptivity: “Listen to the market: Be open to new ideas, because they are coming.”