Luxury Society Market Guides: UAE, UK & USA


Sophie Doran | February 09, 2012

The second in our series of state-of-the-industry reports, focusing on the products, drivers and affluence that characterise the luxury industry in various regions

Following the launch of our local market guides for France, Italy, Germany & Switzerland, we are pleased to present our next series, including the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Last year, in partnership with Sofitel and Louis XIII, Luxury Society launched its first series of events, held in twelve countries over six weeks, where we drew on the collective local wisdom of members to gather valuable first hand market information and insights.

Our guides consist of wealth report data and statistics on the region, provided by LS Partner Ledbury Research, as well as comprehensive directories of all country-based service providers, to be contacted by brands wanting to develop their business locally. Below we have also included some key insights from LS members, sharing their analysis, visions and experiences.

Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, often referred to in the media as the world’s only seven-star hotel

United Arab Emirates

Luxury in the United Arab Emirates is best reflected in its capital Abu Dhabi and its second largest city, Dubai. These two cities – within emirates of the same name – are home to ultra-luxury hotels such as the Burj al Arab, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers and the latest Armani Hotels venture, located within the Burj Khalifa.

The UAE has the world’s sixth highest per capita income and much of the luxury industry is driven by consumption. The region has become an important market for Swiss timepieces and supercars, which are often custom designed.

Distributors in the UAE drive the luxury goods market. Dubai based Rivoli Group, Al Tayer, Chalhoub and BinHendi Enterprises control the majority of European luxury brands, operating stores across the Middle East, including Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Qatar.

“ The UAE has now reached a state of maturity when it comes to the luxury industry, which in business terms means a much more competitive universe ”

“The UAE has now reached a state of maturity when it comes to the luxury industry which in business terms means a much more competitive universe," explains Angelica d’Andlau, head of corporate communications at The Chalhoub Group.

“A particular focus will have to be put in 2012 on customer service excellence, especially taking into accounts a changing base of consumers with the Chinese visiting the UAE in growing numbers, and the Iranians fleeing sanctions imposed in their domestic market. The strengthened consumer centric approach will need to offer both excellence and innovation in services, offers and communication in a volatile and novelty driven market.”

The lobby lounge of The Corinthia hotel, London

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has long been regarded a financial capital and attractive home for wealthy foreigners. London has become just as synonymous with banks and hedge funds as it has its double decker buses. That said, the key components of the UK luxury economy lie in hospitality and retail, driven significantly by a healthy tourism sector. The UK can claim both modern and heritage luxury goods manufacturers as their own – Burberry, Dunhill, Jimmy Choo and Alexander McQueen are all British, as are retailers Harrods, Harvey Nichols & Selfridges.

Iconic hotels The Ritz, The Savoy, The Dorchester and Claridge’s, cement London’s importance in luxury hospitality. As do more modern models like Quintessentially’s concierge services or private members clubs like Soho House. The UK was once a key manufacturer of luxury automobiles, famous for brands such as Jaguar, Rover, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin. But with the majority now owned by foreign conglomerates, few brands now manufacture in the UK and the strength of the industry has become diluted.

“ Iconic hotels cement London’s importance in luxury hospitality. As do models like Quintessentially’s concierge services & Soho House private clubs ”

2012’s Olympic games will further bolster an already healthy tourism economy. A string of luxury timepiece and fashion brands opened or re-launched London flagship stores in 2011, as doors opened on a string of new luxury London hotels: the Four Seasons Hyde Park, 45 Park Lane by the Dorchester Collection, The Corinthia, W Hotel Leister Square and St Pancras Renaissance.

Quintessentially ‘British’ brands such as Mulberry and Burberry, alongside iconic retailers such as Harrods and Harvey Nichols, have recognised the importance of the ‘Travelling Luxury Consumer’ to the UK luxury economy. “When Chinese consumers travel, they spend six times more than when they stay at home. Saying ‘I bought this in London’ adds further cachet,” revealed Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, following the £20 million restoration of its Regent Street flagship.

Saks Fifth Avenue, New York City

United States of America

The United States is home to the largest luxury market in the world. The U.S. received near 60 million tourists in 2010 and consumer spending accounts for 70% of all economic activity. New York is world famous for fashion, producing brands such as Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan & DVF, as well as Proenza Schouler, Rodarte & Alexander Wang. America is also the home of Tiffany & Co, Condé Nast, Estée Lauder and Cadillac, though it not well recognised for the production of luxury goods.

The U.S. is also a veritable force in luxury hospitality. Starwood, Hilton and Marriott are all American groups, which between them control the St. Regis, W Hotels, Westin, Waldorf Astoria, Ritz-Carlton and Bulgari brands. The U.S. is also where entrepreneurs Andre Balazs and Ian Schrager launched Standard Hotels and Morgans Hotel Group respectively.

“ U.S. post crisis spending is an expression of sensible, resourceful, self-confident consumers expanding their portfolio of needs ”

One of the economies hardest hit by the global financial crisis, North Americans emerged from the recession seeking value, quality and service for their money. Post crisis spending was described as “an expression of sensible, resourceful, self-confident consumers expanding their portfolio of needs,” in 2011’s Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America. Jim Taylor, vice chairman of Harrison Group that produced the report with Amex explains “This is a survivor’s economy with people who have succeeded in surviving the recession demanding a new form of respect.”

“The US luxury consumer is a very savvy client,” confirmed Jon Omer, vice president of DeWitt America. “They know fine quality and appreciate a level of service that reflects the quality of the brands they are buying. In 2012, it will become increasingly important to focus on service that builds a feeling of confidence and belonging. There is no replacement for the feeling of security fine service provides a client.”