Printemps Courting Luxury Consumer

The luxury consumer represents a key growth driver for the beauty industry, according to Paolo de Cesare, Printemps' chief executive officer and chairman.

"To our surprise, 60 percent of consumers in the developed world are buyers of luxury brands," he said, adding 30 percent make regular luxury purchases. "So again, we are talking about a very broad target, a lot more than a millionaire, billionaire niche."

Once more, that consumer sees luxury in many categories, including fragrance, apparel, shoes, food and sunglasses. De Cesare said there are three main drivers for the purchase of a luxury item.

"The first and most important one is about the quality of the product," he explained. "The second driver is emotion-related. It is about being surrounded by beautiful items, by having a rewarding purchase experience and treating yourself. And finally, the third area is related to the status symbol of owning a luxury brand."

Although this latter point is less important in Western markets than it was in years past, Printemps' research showed that status is still a motivator in the selection process among consumers coming from countries such as Russia, China and South Korea.

What's considered to represent luxury differs dramatically from country to country. De Cesare said research showed that the French, Italian and Japanese consider classic fashion and jewelry brands as iconic.

"There is also a strong nationalistic skew on preference, with the Italian preferring Ferrari, Valentino and Armani, Italian brands, and the French preferring French brands, Dior, Chanel, Vuitton and Cartier," he said. "The surprise is when we look at what is luxury for U.S. consumers. Mercedes, Lexus and Hilton are the top three aspirational brands for luxury, with BMW and Cadillac being the fourth and the fifth.

"This underscores the big opportunity for our fashion and beauty industries to redefine the meaning of luxury, quality and inspiration in the U.S. market," he continued.

In France, 57 percent of women have bought a luxury product domestically during the past three years, and that percentage keeps going up, explained de Cesare, adding that 28 percent of those shoppers go to department stores, making them the top shopping locations for high-end goods.

"Seventy percent of luxury consumers purchased in a department store in a year," he said.
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