LUXURY SPOTLIGHT: How it’s done down under

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If there is one thing that luxury brands don’t like, its global economic instability. I know, that was quite a news flash. But negative effects in the economy can be considered worse for luxury and premium brands as most of the category is considered a non-necessity and can easily be discarded when consumers work on their spending  budgets.

Luxury brands are slowly (or perhaps re-actively) recognizing this fact as China, once the Triple Crown winner of luxury consumption, scales back as the economic realities of the world sink in.

In a recent article, there was suggestions that entrance into the ‘mass luxury’ category could be a way to capture additional market share and sales. Luxury brands should also focus their attention on regional markets that have upwardly mobile middle classes that have the disposable resources and are willing to part with them for the privilege of enjoying luxury products and services.

China may be a depressing issue to discuss for brand strategists, but not all is lost in Asia and the Pacific region. India has shown determined strength in luxury demand and consumption and one country that stands as an Island and Continent in itself shows real luxury promise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sydney_Opera_House_-_Dec_2008

Australia has recently appeared on a few top 10 lists that prove this is much more than a former prison colony and country where you can get Vegemite.

The land down under has always been on many bucket lists in terms of travel but travel company Virtuoso made it official by naming it a ‘Top Luxury Destination’ for American luxury visitors. Now the US may be experience some economic pains of late but ‘luxury visitors’ are on their way as bookings to upper end and luxury bookings to Australia are up 20% over last year. And those luxury travelers are expecting a luxury experience and are willing to pay for it. Time to upgrade the shrimp and the barbie.

Americans aren’t the only ones shelling out dollars where’s the water runs the wrong way. Chinese investors are looking at Australia with an open mind and open chequebook. Real estate prices in Australia have landed it another top 10 list where she occupies 2 spots. Sydney and Melbourne came in second and 4th respectively on a list for increases in real estate prices over the previous year. Maybe not a great badge of honor but business people love hearing about rising real estate prices.

Australians tend to be very down to earth, so will see through glossy marketing jargon – Dee Light, CEO of Manifesto of Light

When my Australian friend Dee Light proclaimed that she “lived outside the hype” in one of our Facebook chats, I knew she was my go to person for Aussie perspective. While she lives outside the hype, she is also the no nonsense CEO of Manifesto of Light which sells top tier luxury skin care products.

Promising a non-traditional perspective on the luxury situation, I asked Dee if there was a special way that luxury brands should approach Australia:

“Australians tend to be smart consumers, particularly at the upper end. We’re a small population but have a significant level of wealth, and Australians are used to travelling overseas.  There is also a growing awareness amongst Australians about social responsibility, sustainability, innovation and practicality. Australians tend to be very down to earth, so will see through glossy marketing jargon.”

She continues, “At  the top end, we seek the unique, the handmade, the bespoke, the genuine story, accurate providence, the noble rise of genius, genuine connection to nature,  simplicity, honesty, and care. We also seek the unknown. We’re not label driven per se, it’s more about the experience not many will savour, and the find that no one knew about. Which makes it hard for traditional marketing, as anything shiny and photo shopped will be quickly overlooked.  We’re happy to hunt. And we love service. We love upfront concierges, waiters who know their stuff, and genuine retail consultants who can read us like a book.”

A simple people looking for an honest pitch? When it comes to luxury, nothing is ever simple but I can see the logic that Dee lays out. When it comes to newer and emerging luxury markets, like any relationship, it’s important to start off on the right foot.

Upmarket global brands are opening in the Gold Coast’s Pacific Fair as it nears the end of a $670m expansion.
Upmarket global brands are opening in the Gold Coast’s Pacific Fair as it nears the end of a $670m expansion.

A recent news piece indicated that the Chinese owners of Gold Coast’s Pacific Fair Mall see the potential of the Australian luxury market and have committed $670 million for expansion to attract the top US and European luxury brands to the retail outlet.

Dee shares her thoughts on some of the cause and effect for the luxury uptick:

“We have a significant and growing Asian population now, particularly from China, and the strong European brands tend to attract their attention. On a recent trip to downtown Sydney I observed that most of the customers in the Gucci or Louis Vuitton stores were from Asia or the Middle East.  Our weaker dollar also means better price points, so Asian tourists return very happy.”

“The next market to soar is Queensland’s Gold Coast which is currently having a $2 billion injection prior to the Commonwealth Games. For those who know the GC, it is a remarkable strip of jewel like high rises, with beaches to match and a pristine hinterland to escape to. I understand major retail development is underway which will see many luxury brands gain a foothold in what will be the be the next major Chinese getaway destination.”

It is interesting to note that the global trend for luxury wellness experiences is just as prevalent in Australia. Dee uses terms such as personal awareness, personal peace, self- appointed  and self- managed wellness to describe some of what affluent Australians will be looking for when it comes to luxury travel and experiences.

Luxury brands have 3 elements working in their favor when it comes to Australia:

1. Increased investment in luxury infrastructure which is two fold:

        a. Enhanced and expanded travel amenities and services

        b. Increased capacity for luxury brands at the retail level

2. An upwardly mobile and fully aware middle class

3. Current currency valuation works in favor of upper end retailers

Could the Continent that’s also an Island be the next great frontier for luxury? Whether it’s foreign or local dollars being spent, Australia represents an engaging opportunity for luxury brands and services that want to capitalize on positive factors. And to quote my friend Dee, “for luxury companies to succeed, they have to be transparent, and walk their talk”. Sounds like luxury brands can control their own fate down under.

By Doron Levy Courtesy TheTopTier Digital Media

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