Is Luxury Travel Your New “IT” Bag?
Now that January has come and gone, most luxury retailers have definitely moved way beyond their holiday windows, replaced the sale racks for full price merchandise and punctiliously reviewed their 2015 business. Depending on the product category, some retailers were luckier than others. Although most brands were coming off of a disappointing December, the burning question retailers were asking seemed to be, “did we pick up steam and close out the tip of year goal?” The streets did not have the amount of tourist and locals ’tis-ing the season verses prior years. And, it was evident that the arms also lacked multiple shopping bags. Nonetheless, online sales jumping from $2.6 billion in 2014 to $3.0 billion in 2015. Could e-commerce be stealing the thunder?
Globally, the luxury industry has seen better years. But, due to the dollar to euro, the U.S. continues to carry steady as the largest market contributor in luxury goods sales. Based on 2015 end of year earnings, many companies have experienced a decline in over-all business. For example, Prada ended 2015 with a 26.3% decline in total sales. On the bright side, the accessories market continues to shine at a 30% increase, specifically, shoes are the winning category. In accordance with Luxury Society, Salvatore Ferragamo’s handbag and leather goods sales rose 11% in just 9 months. A major contributor to this trend are fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M. With the rise of product quality and fit, these stores are giving luxury shoppers like myself the comfort of mixing high brands with the low brands — pairing Zara’s ready-to-wear with the “it” bag from brands like Chloe, Fendi, or Celine, and shoes from Gianvito Rossi or Valentino.
There are so many contributing aspects to the slowdown at brick and mortar — unseasonable warm weather being faced across the globe, the pending election year in the US and the generational spending shift. An election year can bring uncertainty to the US economic market, which can lead to a more conservative customer. The brand new shift of spending has headed towards Millennials. This generation has very different shopping habits than Generation X and Baby Boomers. They seek immediate gratification, have the ability to quickly research on their smartphone multiple vendors and the thought of putting their money into the acquisition of a full collection isn’t appealing to most. They also see luxury from a brand new perspective — a one among a sort luxury experience is greatly appealing to them. Along with fashion, they will indulge in one of the best electronics, luxury cars, and travel experiences.
In accordance with Baroque Access, an uber luxury concierge service that focuses on high net-worth clients, places like Dubai, St. Moritz, Morocco and Maldives have been the most wanted destinations this past holiday season. Most of their clients were seeking exceptional luxury experiences in the boating and aviation world by renting yachts or major villas, and chartering private jets — this is a different sort of experience that money can purchase. More than that, this can now be accomplished through digital technology. On this level of luxury it’s about exclusivity, therefore, these jet setters are paying for apps that provide exceptional luxury experiences and destinations.
I bared witness to such a service and experience this past holiday season by spending time within the mountains of St. Moritz, Switzerland. Although not a trace of real snow within the Alps, the place was flooded with wealthy European jet setters who spoke English fluently as a second language and grew up spending their Christmas and New Years on the slopes of St Moritz. It felt more like a community then a vacation destination. Mostly everyone knew each other, yet, was super excited to be meeting someone new. By day two I was beginning to feel included on this community.
I had the pleasure of splitting my time between The Crystal, The Kulm and The Steffani hotels, and the customer service and experience that I received was above and beyond my imagination. The management and staff really took the time to ask questions about my likes and dislikes to verify I was truly comfortable. By the end of the trip I felt as though I had been a guest spending my holiday here for years.
The excellence of providing exceptional service did not just stop on the hotel sector, it even transformed at retail. Strolling around Via Serlas, the guts of luxury boutiques, nonchalantly I found myself at Prada trying out the gathering. After some time, I decided to go to the Dolce Gabbana shop, but I wasn’t really sure about the appropriate direction so I asked the Prada employee who surprisingly was the shop manager. At that time, the boutique was relatively crowded however she made sure that all the clients were serviced, then personally walked me to the Dolce boutique ,where I used to be then introduced to the store manager . It is really the definition of exceeding the shopper’s expectation and that will make a big impact for brand positioning within the client mind.
My next stop was Zurich for business. After my 2.5 hour train ride from St. Moritz, I arrived on the Baur au Lac hotel. I hadn’t been here in two years however the bellman greeted me by name and recalled the conversation we had during that time, that was impressive. I moved on to check in, and was met with exceptional service by a highly groomed staff. There was a transparent attention to detail. The pristine hairdos, which differentiated the female employees working in the restaurant from the front desk, was perfection… similar to my room. As a luxury retail expert, these were all great takeaways, especially as customer service and experience is the key in any service industry.
With a lot happening in our lives today increasingly more consumers are replacing their thoughts of waiting for the best moment to indulge with the facility of NOW by honoring their bucket lists to search out these authentic experiences for either personal enrichment, celebration of a milestone birthday, or simply to spend time with loved ones. It’s no wonder Virtuoso Luxe wrote that “for 2016, some emerging destinations like Cuba, Bhutan, Myanmar, Africa and Iceland have been booked and paid for, with millennials accounting for 11.4% of those one among a form luxury experiences.” Hotels are popping up globally with names like; Versace, Bulgari, Armani and Missoni — even a Chanel spa at the Ritz hotel in Paris is a part of this mix. While these brands, in essence, have nothing to do with hospitality the mission is to focus on fulfilling the consumers lifestyle.
So, will luxury travel experiences be competing with luxury brands equivalent to Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s and Hermes? Or is this a trend in fashion like a pair of bell-bottom jeans?