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Vodka: the new handbag?

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

handbag_vodka

Two articles worth sharing from the Sunday Times of London this past weekend; they both concern the idea of “buying status” through the purchase of expensive spirits and handbags.

Ordering a spirit and mixer at a bar in posh places throughout the world is increasingly becoming an exercise in name-dropping: “I’ll have a [Grey Goose or Zubrowka or Stolichnaya or any number of “prestige” vodka brands] and Coke.” This is happening for two reasons–(1) in many places (in the US certainly) house spirits can be of a decidedly dubious quality, and (2) a nice spirit is one of those affordable, aspirational luxuries that people feel can enhance their status (without necessarily enhancing their status). This name-dropping is welcomed by spirits manufacturers, because while you can’t tell a vodka by looking at the glass (unlike the immediate recognition that a handbag commands), people tend to be very loyal to their chosen spirit (unlike how a handbag might be switched by season).

Speaking of vodka and handbags–in addition to owning brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior, LVMH also owns Belvedere vodka. The other article discusses how handbags are increasingly important to luxury companies–they can be purchased easily, without the need for sizing, and net profits up to 13 times their production costs. There’s a great quote from fashion designer Miuccia Prada:

With the bag . . . there are no left-overs because there are no sizes, unlike shoes or clothes. It’s easier to choose a bag than a dress because you don’t have to face the age, the weight, all the problems. And there is a kind of an obsession with bags. It’s so easy to make money. The bag is the miracle of the company.

You can read the whole spirits article here and the whole handbags article here.

Will handbags remain so popular? Probably. The question is whether luxury brands can maintain their high class image while they face a threefold attack: from smaller new brands that can seem more exclusive and hip, from counterfeit bags that celebrities are starting to not mind carrying, and from the ‘unwashed masses’ who carry their bags but don’t make good brand ambassadors.

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Handbags: Price over label?

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

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Earlier this month the Luxury Institute released a survey that found that when buying a handbag, men in the US are more concerned with the label than with the price compared to women. 73% of men looked first to the label when buying a handbag (compared to 50% of women), and men were three times as likely to choose Chanel.

It would have been interesting if the Luxury Institute had determined (or at least released) what the actually percentage of spending on handbags is for men versus women. I have a sneaking suspicion that women purchase the vast majority of handbags for themselves and men buy only a tiny percentage as gifts. US leather goods seller Coach was the most familiar brand of designer handbags, recognized by 52% of respondents. 24% recognized Gucci, 22% Louis Vuitton and 21% Prada.

This makes sense—Coach bags are relatively mid-range (costing several hundred dollars) compared to European labels whose bags can cost in the thousands. Men may choose the fancy bags on the basis of brand but women are buying more of the cheaper Coach bags as they’re less concerned with label compared to other factors like price and quality.

If it is true that women buy the vast majority of handbags, the marketing challenge is then to get men to buy more handbags for women. This completely opposes the status quo in the jewelry industry, in which the goal is for women to buy more jewelry for themselves.

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