Luxury Consumption Index

A long, slow crawl to affluent consumer confidence?

Isaac Mostovicz writes that luxury consumption might be starting to improve...

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We’ve seen many a doom-and-gloom story about the economy and the luxury market recently, so here’s one offering a glimmer of hope. Unity Marketing’s latest Luxury Consumption Index showed a slight improvement, meaning that affluent people are starting to feel slightly better about their economic situations. They aren’t necessarily willing to spend again–over 40% of the respondents still said they planned on cutting their spending on luxury over the next 12 months–but nevertheless, any improvement in attitudes toward luxury should be welcomed. People need luxury–it’s a basic human need. They need to find ways to express themselves through it.

Unity Marketing’s chief economist Tom Bodenberg expressed a worry though:

The media’s focus on ‘recession chic’ – personal expression that deliberately excludes luxury goods – may leave a lingering distaste for conspicuous consumption and parading luxury labels.

I disagree–whether something is ‘recession chic’ depends on one’s personal interpretation, and this does not deliberately exclude luxury. Luxury companies that provide true value–financially, emotionally or otherwise–will emerge from the recession stronger than before.

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Ethical Luxury Becomes a Luxury Trend

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

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We’ve seen it in cars and resorts; now ethical, sustainable luxury is playing a larger role in other aspects of peoples’ luxury consumption (according to this article in the International Herald Tribune from this past weekend). Ethical living has hit the media, through film (An Inconvenient Truth, Blood Diamond) and and in print (in glossy magazines like Vanity Fair and Vogue), and people are generally becoming more aware and more willing to spend on ethically produced products. Milton Pedraza from the Luxury Institute of New York said:

Our research shows that if wealthy consumers know that a luxury brand is socially responsible they will give that brand greater purchase consideration over a brand with similar quality and service.

Of course there is a worry for luxury brands that becoming sustainable and ethical will take away some of the aloofness and elitism that give them cachet, but if the move towards green living continues, companies will have no choice but become more accountable and transparent.

Knowing the provenance of an ethically-sourced item gives people something to talk about and makes them more involved in their luxury. So says Vivien Johnston, the founder of Fifi Bijoux, a British-based ethical jewelry company:

One of the key luxury elements is knowledge of provenance. It’s the value that really separates you. With Fair Trade, it’s not just a diamond: I can show you pictures of the miners, the mountains, the cooperative projects and the people that produced it, that’s a real element that you don’t get from most products and I think that people appreciate the story.

Whether ethical luxury is a fad that will pass or a truly revolutionary step for the market remains to be seen, but for now I don’t see any luxury companies becoming less green.

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