We all love a bit of luxury now and again, whether that’s blowing the budget on a designer handbag or treating ourselves to a bottle of Champagne. While we might have aspirations of a footballer’s lifestyle (penalty shoot outs withstanding), few of us are able to maintain it as we might hope!
On a global scale, consumers have a growing appetite for luxury goods. The market is growing rapidly and was estimated at $217 billion last year.
While the USA is still the biggest single market, with Europe the largest trading area, South East Asia could be
catching up soon. The Hong Kong market grew by around 7 per cent in 2013, while some estimates show that half the world’s luxury spending will come from China by 2015.
As disposable incomes rise, more and more consumers are able to splurge on luxury brands such as Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton. These global names have managed to transfer their appeal to China and other markets. It helps that they were already recognisable names even before their arrival, due to the media and international travel.
As globalisation and the internet have made the world seem smaller, the strength of these super-brands has got stronger. Like the siren on the rocks, they draw people in with the promise of fulfilling their dreams -obviously without the associated wrecking of sailors’ ships!
What they have been able to do is to go beyond normal cultural and language boundaries. This is partly related to aspiration, as well as the dominance of Western culture in certain circles. Certainly, the desirability of luxury brands has given them an advantage in growing market share internationally.
This existing awareness has helped luxury brands to easily enter international markets with minimal time and money spent on defining their brand, target market and positioning. It seems luxury is a simple proposition.
Be it cars, watches or fine wine, these brands have not only made inroads into new markets, but increasingly they have been able to charge a premium compared to their traditional markets. For example, a Louis Vuitton handbag costs an average of 30 per cent more in Beijing than it does in Paris.
However, for some luxury goods there seems to have been a sting in the tail. Fine wine is a case in point. The democracy of the en premieur system in selling a product before it is available to be consumed had meant rising demand in China has increased costs for customers in traditional markets. Since supply is limited, prices have been driven up worldwide.
However, the first growth Bordeaux producers have seen that fashion and luxury go hand in hand and now Burgundy looks like the star draw.
Fashion is obviously a big influence in the highs and lows of most luxury brands. Mulberry’s oscillating fortunes led to them being forced to offer more “affordable” products to expand their customer reach, after initially saying this would not be part in their strategy.
Trying to get the balance right between being exclusive, but still maintaining growth is always going to be a challenge.
So what does that mean to challenger brands and also those operating outside the luxury stratosphere? Success in international markets is related to having a clear sense of identity. You don’t need to have a luxury product to be aspirational: if the customer can understand what you are and what you represent (assuming these are positive attributes for your brand) then that should make taking your product into international markets easier.
Try to be true to your brand while remaining culturally sensitive. Ultimately, don’t compromise your traditional markets at the expense of trying to grow internationally. At the other end of the scale, Tesco appeared to take its dominant position in the UK for granted when focusing on international expansion.
Now how did a blog about luxury end up talking about Tesco? I am not entirely sure, but hopefully we can look forward to seeing brands grow and adapt to take advantage of the international opportunities, luxury or otherwise!
*Picture credits: Lena Serditova / Shutterstock.com
*Picture credits: hxdbzxy / Shutterstock.com