Trends: new luxury

OPEN forum are currently running a series on consumer trends, and today they featured ‘New Luxury’. Read on to find out more, or click here to view the article on the original website.


Consumers are eschewing traditional status symbols in favor of authentic products and services – a story to tell means a story to sell.

Over the past century, rising disposable incomes have brought goods once considered “luxury” within reach of an increasing number of people. Now, a new breed of consumer is challenging the classic definition of luxury by seeking out a fresh form based on authenticity and exclusivity. A growing band of committed craftspeople – those who make beautiful, handcrafted products and those who offer tailored services requiring skill and time to achieve – are spearheading the new luxury movement.

Quality Not Quantity

New luxury can be characterized by one or more of the following: a single point of sale; the use of specially sourced materials to make the product; detailed consultation to ensure the customer’s exact specifications are matched; a curated shopping experience; a limited product range or supply of the product; and a trained, skilled workforce. Small businesses are ideally positioned to apply their working practices to providing quality rather than quantity, and will find that promoting great craftsmanship can pay dividends.

Business owners who already supply handcrafted goods should consider capitalizing on their existing operations by promoting their products’ provenance. The new luxury consumer appreciates the time and effort that goes into the manufacture of such products, so consideration should be shown to every aspect of production. The carefully constructed
website displays its product range in between testimonials from satisfied customers. Carving hardwood toys from a wind-powered workshop, the one-man band behind the venture plants trees to compensate for the raw materials he uses (which are native to the area), and even writes to his child customers to explain the origin of their new toy. A green business before it became fashionable, the enterprise is naturally limited by the number of hours devoted to the craft.

The story behind the product is an attractive feature for the new luxury consumer. We Love Jam in San Francisco, California, produces limited quantities of its Blenheim apricot preserve each year. The owners discovered that the Blenheim apricot is an endangered variety and the orchard they use is one of the last remaining in the region. Each batch of jam is meticulously prepared using the finest ingredients and is only available for purchase via their
website. Customers join a waiting list to alert them when the new batch becomes available every August. We Love Jam has redefined luxury by successfully navigating the fine line between elitism and quality, turning something as humble as jam into a luxury product for food lovers around the country by limiting the supply and keeping standards high.

From Supplier to Buyer

Business opportunities are also available to those who provide a curated or immersive retail environment for customers. In Portland, Oregon, Craig Olson and Sean Igo own Canoe, which stocks an eclectic mix of office and homewares that are united by a commitment to provenance, craftsmanship and quality design. Each product is accompanied by a mini-history, which makes the link from supplier to buyer and reinforces the Canoe brand values of timeless design and functionality. Olson comments: “In many ways it is a very Scandinavian or Japanese approach – the idea that products are to be used and enjoyed every day, not placed on a shelf only to fulfill some status role.” Canoe represents the growing breed of retailer mindful that, in an increasingly homogeneous world of Main Streets, discerning luxury consumers are becoming more demanding in their search for authenticity and are rejecting the mundane – whatever the cost.

The fragile economy has given rise to a segment of consumers who are reassessing mass consumption and traditional status symbols in favor of authenticity. Whatever the product, the central tenet is that new luxury goods should have a story to tell and offer an experience that goes beyond the price tag. Small businesses that take pride
in combining quality materials, highly skilled craftsmen and a made-to-measure service are naturally in the best position to leverage this trend. Many of them are already proving that adopting new luxury practices is the perfect way to retain existing clientele – and to find fresh customers too.

For more articles and profiles on the trends shaping today’s business landscape, download
OPEN Book: A Practical Guide to Essential Trends.


What do you think? This article is geared more towards retail, but VisitScotland statistics also seem to be telling us that tourists are looking for stories and to add authentic experiences to their trips; how can you offer this ‘new luxury’ to your customers? Share your ideas here!

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One Comment on “Trends: new luxury”

  1. Words that sounds like music in my ears!

    It’s about the same main concept that was outlined in my recent blog post “New Luxury!”:

    “What is luxury?

    It’s anything coming at a premium price compared to mass market products or services.

    Luxury markets have been growing exponentially in the past decades together with the wealth/GDP of all Western and Far Eastern countries. We have seen a worldwide proliferation of “self assessed” luxury brands like never before. It happened in any kind of Industry, from pet food to sportswear, from shoes to fine linens.

    Overcrowded and supercompetitive markets moved businesses focus from the product itself to marketing. The one able to scream its message louder stood out of the crowd and won the consumer. Marketing counted up to 80% of the price tag. A lot of sizzle and no steak!

    That’s the way it used to be!

    Tha global downturn that slashed US economy into the worst recession since 1929 was not only evil. Strange as it seems there is also a good side of it. The Great recession brought people back to reality, easy and quick money was over and the idea of an eternal growth at the same pace as the past decades has been replaced by the concept of sustainable growth.

    This changed consumer attitude forever. Focus is back again on the value of actual product.

    A brand name alone is not enough anymore to justify a premium price tag and luxury doesn’t mean just to show off wealth and social status accomplishment.

    New Luxury stands in a product’s superior key features that translate into actual benefits to the user. It’s that simple!

    The winner in today’s economy is the one able to deliver that luxury product to consumers in the most efficient/cost effective way leveraging the power of the internet and the new media. The internet make it possible to reach a target audience in a much more effective way than traditional advertising thus shortening the value chain and giving value back to consumers.

    Many traditional luxury brands still don’t get it. All that they do is making product more affordable by lowering quality thus not changing the way they deliver value. This is actually a runway to hell since poor quality will kill the perceived value of the brand itself in the long run.

    Only those businesses able to justify a premium price tag with real, tangible value will prosper and be the winners in the New luxury markets. All the others are condemned to decline and will strive to survive.

    New Luxury is good and is here to stay.

    No more sizzle please, just the steak !”

    Those are also the main reasons that moved us, as a fine linens manufacturer based in Florence Italy, to partner into a new online venture and go live with Belvivere Luxury Linens.

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