Young Asian consumers, e-tail, eco and resale are key for luxury - report
The global luxury market may have been devastated by the protests in Hong Kong in the past few months but there’s been plenty of activity outside of the territory that offers reasons to be cheerful about the market’s overall prospects. But there’s also change happening that means luxury businesses need to be agile in reacting to the evolving market.
That’s the conclusion of the latest Bain & Company Luxury Study, in collaboration with Italy’s luxury goods makers group Fondazione Altagamma.
It said the personal luxury goods market grew 4% currency-neutral this year to hit €281 billion, even with a 20% drop in consumption in the important Hong Kong market.
But young consumers, and especially those in other parts of Asia, helped the ongoing growth story.
“The nature of luxury customers is evolving fast,” Bain said. “Younger luxury buyers seek an ongoing conversation with brands which will force them to innovate both their business models and value propositions”.
Bain & Co partner and lead author Claudia D’Arpizio added that Asian buyers were the main luxury drivers but the customer is evolving and “dramatically rewriting the rulebook of the industry. Brands will need to pivot to a new model to respond to customers’ needs when it comes to buying, consuming and communicating”.
The report said that today’s luxury consumers are increasingly Millennials with those born between 1980 and 1995 now accounting for 35% of consumption. And this will only get bigger as they're expected to account for 45% by 2025.
But in a way, that’s yesterday’s story and Bain said it’s the even-younger Generation Z “that is poised to reshape the industry. By 2035 they could make up 40% of luxury buyers and they display behaviours that distinguish them from other generations”.
They already represent a growing portion of luxury consumption in Asian markets and Bain partner/co-author Federica Levato said: “They see themselves as critical actors of the creativity and conversations with luxury brands; they are returning to products, stores and physical interactions with brands to truly connect and engage emotionally with them”.
The priorities of younger consumers? Social responsibility. Bain said 80% of luxury consumers say they prefer brands that are socially responsible and that’s particularly noticeable among younger groups. And socially responsible doesn’t only mean eco but a raft of other issues too.
The study also showed very different results in different parts of the world this year. The mainland China market grew 26% during the year to reach €30 billion and Chinese shoppers accounted for 90% of the luxury market’s growth. In fact, Chinese shoppers globally now drive 35% of luxury spending.
And Chinese buyers really mattered in other locations, boosting the performance of these markets. Japan grew by 4% currency-neutral to €24 billion while the rest of Asia grew by 6%, reaching €42 billion.
Tourism by the hungry-for-luxury Asian consumers had both a positive and negative effect in the more developed luxury markets in Europe and the US.
In the Americas, for instance, the market was mainly held up by domestic confidence but “tempered by reduced tourist flows”. That meant growth was sluggish across the region but with an overall market size of €84 billion, it remained a core region for personal luxury goods.
Europe saw growth of only 1% currency-neutral, to €88 billion. Spain and the UK were among the top performers, driven by tourism in the case of Spain and the low value of the British pound. But Germany “was impacted by a slowing country dynamism and France by social unrest earlier in the year” as the yellow jackets protests had an impact.
The Middle East was also “subdued”, although Dubai saw a “hesitant recovery”. But it wasn’t enough to push the ‘other geographies’ region into positive growth and sales here fell 5% to €12 billion.
One area that did grow, however, was online. Globally, online continues to gain share and now accounts for 12% of the market, with consumers “increasingly influenced and enabled by digital channels, also in their physical purchases”. Bain said this is “continuously disrupting the physical channel” and it thinks the global network of physical stores could peak in 2020, although it gave no prediction of what sort of a decline might come after that.
And another ‘new’ channel this year has been one that is actually focused on older goods, or at least secondhand goods. The report said the growth of the secondhand market, which reached €26 billion in 2019, is “one example of a successful business model, which the luxury customer’s evolving mentality has encouraged”.
“We see the secondhand market as a potential avenue for luxury brands to reach a new audience and enlarge their customer base,” said Levato. “For many customers, this may be their first luxury purchase, but luxury brands shouldn’t see this as a threat and should manage it strategically to grasp the full potential of this opportunity”.
Overall, the most dynamic categories this year have been jewellery, up 9% currency-neutral, and shoes, also rising 9%. That was followed by leathergoods at 7% and beauty at 3%. Watches have been more sluggish at only 2%.
And while the overall story is one of growth, Bain said there are still challenges ahead, even aside from big issues such as those hitting Hong Kong at the moment.
It expects the luxury customer base to expand to 450 million by 2025, up from 390 million this year, mainly thanks to the growing middle-class, especially from Asia. And it said that “this will further stimulate the entry-price segments, [which] already represent a sizeable part of the market,” (35% within leathergoods and 30% in jewellery), as well as the off-price channel, which grew by 11% at current exchange rates in 2019, reaching €36 billion.
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