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Luxury brands wrestle with slowing growth in emerging markets
Apr '09
Bain & Company released a semi-annual update to its 'Luxury Goods Worldwide Market' study (7th edition) in response to the sharp deterioration of the global economy since October 2008. The luxury sector faces between a 15% and 20% decline in sales revenues during the first two quarters in 2009 (at constant exchange rates), shrinking to €153 billion from its 2008 level of €170 billion. Bain estimates that the worldwide luxury market will begin stabilizing in the second half of the year, resulting in a net decline of 10% for 2009 overall.

“This year's declines are hitting both the top and bottom lines of luxury goods companies,” said the study's author Claudia D'Arpizio, a Bain partner and luxury goods expert based in Milan. “Luxury shoppers are spending less, traveling less and feeling less confident. Luxury goods producers are also feeling the additional squeeze of intense pricing pressure and markdowns from retailers and higher-end department stores.”

Bain estimates a 15% decline in the Americas and 10% declines in Europe and Japan. These major luxury markets account for over 80% of worldwide sales. Smaller luxury markets show more promise, with projected growth of 7% in China and 2% in the Middle East, but these gains will provide only a small offset against steep declines in major markets.

Among the major luxury product categories, apparel will be hit the hardest, declining by 15%. Jewelry and watches will decline by 12%, while leather goods, shoes and accessories will decline by 10%. Luxury cosmetics and fragrances will be the most resilient categories in 2009 with sales of €22.4 billion for cosmetics and €18.4 billion for fragrances, both comparable to 2008 levels.

The differences between categories reflect a trend among luxury shoppers to switch to lower price point items while still remaining loyal to top-of-mind brands. “One of the biggest changes we've seen in consumers is that 'price' and 'luxury' are no longer synonymous,” observes D'Arpizio. The study explores further deep changes in consumer behavior and attitude as luxury shoppers adjust to a global recessionary psychology:

• Reaching Lower. Consumers who are newly entering the luxury market, called 'accessible luxury' consumers, are purchasing items at the lower end of brands' product lines
• Seeking Intrinsic Value. The most affluent, or 'absolute,' luxury shoppers have begun to focus more on the intrinsic quality of materials and the durability of luxury items instead of on fashion content
• Buying the Experience. Experiences are in. Consumers who value the dream offered by luxury brands, called 'aspirational' consumers, are increasingly motivated by service and in-store events as much as by merchandise
• Spending Discreetly. Ostentation is out. Consumers are gravitating to more discreet products, preferring understatement in what they buy and how they shop in luxury stores
• Fleeing to Value. Many shoppers across all luxury segments now wait for deeper discounts at the end of the season, or seek out discounts at department stores and outlets

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