What defines luxury in 2019? Is it the heritage of a brand? Is it authenticity? Exclusivity? The definition of luxury continues to evolve and while these qualities are all markers of luxury, it is now also very much about the experience.
As highlighted in a recent luxury goods webinar, hosted by Fflur Roberts and An Hodgson of market research firm Euromonitor International, ‘materialism, as a determinant of status, is likely to persist in the short term, but a shift toward experiences will be more visible’.
‘Often with luxury, the product is the keepsake that reminds you of a unique, memorable experience,’ says Helen Brocklebank, CEO of Walpole, the official sector body for UK luxury. ‘Luxury has always been about the way you feel, but that is more important than ever before. Create a compelling experience and a purchase will follow,’ she argues.
‘Harrods continues to set the benchmark for luxury retail experiences and its new Food Hall is one of the latest in-store innovations following the launch of its hugely successful Wellness Centre a couple of years ago,’ continues Brocklebank. ‘The Food Hall comprises a new Roastery and Bake Hall which deliver an immersive and theatrical experience where tea, coffee and bread are all brewed, roasted and baked on-site, taking the customer on a journey with the option to personalise, taste and learn about the produce.’
‘[Luxury] has become more about a holistic service,’ agrees Simon Rawlings, creative director at David Collins Studio – the design firm behind the new Harrods Food Hall. ‘It is the ease and enjoyment of the journey, from the very first touchpoint, throughout the physical space, even to the moment you return home and beyond. In today’s fast-paced world, more than ever time is a commodity that has become a luxury, and to feel that your time is well spent in a beautiful location, from which when you leave you continue to feel uplifted and inspired is so important.’
David Collins Studio also designed the new Men’s Superbrands department at Harrods, which features 19 of the finest menswear labels set in an inspiring, residential environment. ‘We wanted to create a menswear destination like no other,’ explains Simon Longland, head of menswear at Harrods. ‘A space to inspire and excite, but most importantly offer an excellent service and product proposition.’
For Rebecca Robins, global chief learning and culture officer at Interbrand and co-author of the book Meta-luxury, the currency of luxury retail is increasingly about knowledge, learning, community and exchange. ‘It’s space as a service, space as experimentation, theatre and play,’ she says.
Last Autumn, Matchesfashion.com opened a new store in Mayfair that combines a new retail experience, cultural and lifestyle event programme and creative broadcasting hub in one physical permanent residence. The five-storey townhouse is described as both a physical location and global digital destination with an inclusive and exclusive approach – inclusive events that customers can sign up to attend and exclusive content to inspire them. ‘Our mission is to create the most personal luxury shopping experience in the world, so we wanted an environment where we could initiate conversations with our customers and create a global sense of community enabled through the power of technology,’ says Ulric Jerome, CEO at Matchesfashion.com.
The retailer is an early example of luxury brands behaving like media entities in order to establish a standout, socially aware voice, believes Katie Baron, head of retail at trends intelligence company, Stylus. ‘In 2019, we’ll see the notion of retailer as media brand explode, as the lines between selling, guidance and entertainment blur, disturbing traditional retail calendars and delivering new avenues of consumption,’ claims Baron.
It’s important for brands to understand their customers and be in the spaces that they inhabit, whether that’s a bricks-and-mortar flagship, web, mobile or social media platforms, and having a cohesive marketing and retail strategy for each of those consumer groups, notes Brocklebank. ‘It is not enough to just be a shop front. It’s about finding what will engage and retain your customers, and give them a reason to come into the store rather than shop online.
‘The millennialisation of luxury is driving a great deal of change,’ adds Brocklebank. ‘[In 2019], we’ll see greater transparency from brands around sustainability and their environmental impact, and social purpose. [We’ll also see] experiential retail beyond traditional showrooms, likely encompassing a VR or AI element and continuation of the health and wellness trend, which for so many, is the ultimate luxury.’