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- 15 May 2010

The Future of Luxury in a Recession

In the aftermath of recession, the fundamentals of luxury have been transformed

Based on research carried out by Atelier, a subsidiary of Leo Burnett, this video looks at the future of luxury in an economic downturn and how the recession will redefine the luxury market. It argues that the essence of luxury now is about personal transformation, not social status.

Atelier’s research:
The recession is having a dramatic impact on the luxury market. Over 80% of luxury consumers in the UK and US say the economic situation is affecting their purchase behaviour, with 57% in the US and 38% in the UK severely reducing the number of luxury purchases they make.

Luxury consumers have found their strategy for dealing with the recession, however, buying little indulgences to keep them sane through the tough times. The majority of luxury consumers in the US (56%) and over a third in the UK (38%) say they are now purchasing little indulgences rather than mere luxurious indulgences. In the times they do need a lift though it seems price is not an issue, with 43% of luxury consumers in the UK saying would rather have less of something but have it be higher quality (compared to 36% in 2007). The luxury set then feels that when they are indulging they want to do it properly and engage with the best brands 39% in the UK say there are certain types of products or services I use where only the very best brand will do.

What luxury consumers define as the best quality has been evolving long before the recession kicked in however. Luxury seekers arent just after exclusive products, they are seeking richer experiences. Over a third of luxury consumers in the UK and over 40% in the US say luxury for them is less about extravagance and more about experience. Experiences are the ultimate in inconspicuous consumption. Picture the guy in first class dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He has no hand luggage, just an Amex Black slipped inside his passport. He is there for the ride, not the red carpet.

For luxury consumers then, it is much more about how luxury makes you feel in these tougher times. While luxury used to conjure up images of 1950s status-building or 1980s excess, the recession is changing it from glamorous status shows to luxury’s ability to transform us personally. Luxury consumers have long been prepared for this. Last year the majority of luxury consumers, on both sides of the Atlantic, agreed that the most important thing about luxury is how it makes me feel personally, rather than what it does to impress or influence others.

These personal justifications follow the 14 New Drivers of Luxury: Read about them in Atelier’s The Shape of Luxury Report.

Janet Carpenter, General Manager for Atelier notes that: “Shifting consumer values are having a profound effect on the definition of luxury. Luxury has become more experiential as status stories are more valuable to the consumer than status symbols. The economic crisis has accelerated the shift away from conspicuous consumption.”

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About the Research – Survey Sample: 6,000 Luxury Consumers in the UK & US

Surveying over 6,000 luxury consumers in the UK and US, Atelier’s research reveals that the economic situation is having a dramatic impact on the luxury market, with luxury consumers reducing their number of purchases, buying little indulgences, not lavish luxuries, and looking for quality over quantity. In the current economy, status and extravagance are being replaced as luxury’s defining elements. Luxury purchases, when they are taking place, are being driven by what they do for us personally, not socially.

Atelier Communications is a division of Leo Burnett devoted to fashion, beauty and luxury.