When Virgin Galactic launched in 2004, I think we all knew that the future of luxury travel would look very different than we ever could have anticipated.
In each of the last 36 years, we have begun the analysis of our survey data with a search for trends. What's up? What's down? What has changed in Affluent lives, spending patterns, and media habits?
"Homeland," Showtime's 2012 Emmy-winning series, is a story of heroic efforts by a team of dedicated intelligence professionals to promote the interests of the United States and safeguard it against threats in an ever-changing, turbulent world. In a larger sense, it's very similar to the efforts of luxury marketers to gain mindshare of affluents. The storyline has a premier brand, the United States, whose influence is being threatened. Like luxury marketers, the team has to promote the brand while also protecting it from powerful, opposing forces in the marketplace who desire to diminish its influence.
Last time I was in New York, I found myself ducking into Saks Fifth Avenue to avoid the sirens from the President's motorcade. You have to appreciate the full retail experience of an upscale store like Saks. What really struck me on this particular visit were not the couture products or the latest high-ticket items that would require my selling a limb to purchase, but the habits of my fellow shoppers -- in particular, the number of mobile cameras being used to take pictures in every corner of the story really stood out. If I ventured a guess, I'd bet ...
Reading the outlook reports for Holiday 2012 can really make your head spin. It's hard for luxury retailers to know if they should be decking the halls or hiding behind the tree. One report declares that affluents will be buying meaningful gifts for loved ones - and even better gifts for themselves. Another predicts a sea of consumable gifts and gift cards. A third predicts that, due to an Obama victory, the wealthy will be keeping it lean this year, since they believe the President will be hungrily eyeing their wallets.
Last month, we began exploring the roles of money and financial services in the lives of Affluent Americans. This month, we dig deeper on Affluents (defined here as $100K+ annual household income) and their money. But first, a quick review of the key findings from last month's initial look at Affluents and financial services...
Savvy affluent consumers have always had discerning taste. The trends we see in virtually all luxury segments indicate that consumers are being more focused and conscientious about their luxury purchases. No doubt unsettling times play a major role, and I believe a larger macro force is at play: limitless choices are causing consumers to think more diligently about where they focus their luxury dollars and the personalized choices they make.
While most Americans will be celebrating modestly this holiday season, affluent customers, specifically the top 10% of earners, are expected to spend over 20% more than last year. According to a recent study by Harrison Group and American Express, 39% of the top 1% are planning to spend big on gifts this year, although perhaps not in the way you'd expect.
In the era of Groupon Reserve, how can luxury brands hope to hold their customers? If everyone is looking for a bargain, can stores like Barneys and Neiman Marcus even stay in business, much less maintain the loyalty of their pre-recession customers?
Defining Affluents as the 59 million U.S. adults living in households with $100,000 or more in annual household income (HHI), we find they average $192K in HHI, and their average of $500K in liquid assets is spread across a variety of accounts. Essentially, all have a banking (checking/savings) account, and nearly as many (87%) have a retirement account, including 63% with a 401K. They have a variety of insurance accounts as well, with personal insurance being the second-largest category of Affluent expenditures (behind automotive).