Dozens of top executives from luxury brands and retailers gathered in New York this morning for the inaugural Departures Executive Briefing, a breakfast conference series set to establish the title franchise as the definitive authority in the luxury industry.
This invitation-only summit is available exclusively to executives from luxury companies around the world. The Executive Briefing will tap into the minds of the industry’s forward-thinking visionaries, provocateurs and thought-leaders to network and share ideas surrounding today’s affluent consumer.
The quarterly series will feature Departures Editor in Chief, Richard Story, and Steven DeLuca, Senior Vice President and Publisher, participating in interesting and timely discussions following presentations from distinguished individuals sharing top insights from their field.
“The luxury customer is highly desirable and the one that everyone wants to try to understand,” Mr. DeLuca said in his opening remarks. “I’m happy to report that, according to our European counterparts, the U.S. consumer is important again.”
The series kicked off with speaker Robert Frank, wealth editor from CNBC, who spoke about how the luxury industry and the affluent consumer are constantly changing, especially as it applies to the U.S.
The affluent American cannot be pigeonholed, due to varying wants, needs and situations from different groups around the country. Farmers making millions on fracking in the Mid West are different from New York Park Avenue couples, which are different from social media millionaires in the Silicon Valley.
In fact, approximately one-third of the most-affluent individuals in the U.S. changes every year, according to Mr. Frank. This is especially notable because different brands need to target different affluent groups, and not all businesses can benefit from the same company.
For example, high-end clothing and apparel designers can woo the Wall Street execs from New York, while high-end tractor companies attract millionaires from North Dakota.
“The way that these people define luxury is very different, and it is a different set of businesses that benefit from this,” Mr. Frank said.
An expensive tractor or high-end clothing may not be on every affluent consumers’ list, but they are examples of another major theme for today’s luxury customer: the idea of luxury goods as an investment, rather than just “things” that consumers will get less excited about or even throw out three years from now.
Since U.S. consumers are still so discerning about spending, they have been focused on the quality, craftsmanship and history of goods, investing in pieces that will last a long time and carefully choosing items or experiences that will last a long time.
Mr. Frank compared the affluent demographic in the U.S. not to an escalator, where consumers steadily get more affluent as they get older, but to a revolving door, where consumers can become rich at any moment. This makes this notoriously difficult to understand consumer even more complex.
To combat this and to further its commitment to becoming the definitive source in the luxury industry, Departures announced that it is finalizing details regarding a partnership with Ledbury Research, a London-based firm that specializes in the wealth sector.
The two brands are expected to publish a quarterly report focused on trends, buying habits and the affluent consumer mindset, which will be available exclusively to Executive Briefing attendees. The combination of discussions with thought-leaders combined with cutting-edge research is set to make this event an incomparable networking, sharing and learning opportunity for all involved.
“The speed of wealth is moving around the world,” Mr. Frank said. “Luxury is always being destroyed and consumed. The luxury sector used to be reliant on one or two countries, but it is now every single country, and brands need to recognize that.”