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Crisis eliminates aspirational buyers for luxury products

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The booming sales of luxury brands in the years leading up to 2008, were much attributed to the aspirational consumers, defined as those who would buy on a loyal basis products from so-called ”second lines” or ”diffusion lines”. Those were the success years of brands such as D&G, EMPORIO ARMANI, JUST CAVALLI etc. The international crisis has brought about lower sales of these lines, in favour of the first lines, considered as prestige.

The real winners of the crisis have been the brands such as BURBERRY or COACH which have established themselves as ”democratic, affordable luxury”. The lower prince point of their products has attracted the former aspirational buyers of the second lines. This ”affordable” luxury segment has thrived during the crisis, with double digit sales growth, also attracting the so called aspirational customer who used to buy less pricey items of luxury brands such as small leather accessories.

The post crisis core luxury consumer target is definitely buying less products and is looking at higher end items, valuing the quality of raw materials and finishes. Peoeple are looking for unique, limited edition pieces, more than before the crisis. Less seasonal products are also preferred, when it comes to fabrics, styles and colours.

An important segment of the former aspirational buyers target, especially in emerging markets, has been drawn during the crisis, to the so called ”premium” perceived brands such as GUESS, GANT, LACOSTE, TOMMY HILFIGER.

Marketing strategies of top luxury brands have also been altered during the crisis, the aspirational aspects being mostly replaced by lifestyle aspects. Particular attention should also be paid to the way luxury products are integrated into a complete lifestyle, for instance the new past times of consumers, who spend more and more time online and who dedicate an important part of their budgets to technology, buying the latest laptop, mobile phone, reading tablet etc.

It remains to be seen how the luxury brands will be able attract the consumers they lost during the crisis, especially for their apparel products. An increasing number of traditional luxury consumers have adopted the mix and match trend and became regular customers of fast fashion brands while continuing to buy the accessories from the luxury brands, especially shoes and bags. It is still trendy to wear an H&M T-shirt with an Hermes Birkin bag.

Oliver Petcu

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