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Luxury Retailing – but not as we know it.


Steve Thomas-Emberson gives his take on recent changes in luxury retail.


For the Geneva based luxury jeweller Chopard, the Cannes Film Festival is a masterclass in the art of retailing. The event showcases its high-end jewels on the back of “Celebrity”. Within minutes of Uma Thurman wearing jewels from Chopard’s Red Carpet Collection in 2011 they were sold to a customer. There are Newspapers printing supplements called “Luxx”, “How to Spend It”, “Collecting Art” and “Boats that Rock.” This is set against a background of high inflation, a collapsing high street and a fall in income. Has the world gone mad? One person with his finger on the “Luxury” pulse is Robbie Gill, Managing Director of The Design Solution, who has witnessed first hand the dramatic growth and drive for


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luxury in the “emerging” markets such as India, China and Hong Kong. He has also witnessed a fellow purchasing a $100,000 watch in airport Duty Free! “Asia is now the centre of the Luxury retail marketplace. International airport luxury retailing tends to model Bond Street, or the Via Condotti, in that luxury brands are side by side; it is high-end retailing at its best.” Gill’s mention of “markets” is opportune, as last year Prada floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange rather than in its home country of Italy. This demonstrates how the company feels its market is going. The fact that the opening price was ten cents above the offer price and it raised a staggering £1.9 billion shows just how important luxury is in Asia. Burberry, a


company that has had a rather chequered past in the luxury goods market, has spent £70 million pounds buying back its Chinese franchise. Luxury products equal high-end profit. What then of the products themselves? Here Gill has some surprising news; “In the luxury marketplace men are hard done by. They are very limited in what they can purchase. The obvious items are a watch, maybe a fountain pen, a briefcase, or a tie, but who wears them?” Gill is right - luxury products are mostly aimed at females. His mention of pens is interesting, for Mont Blanc are pen purveyors at the very high end but now have extended their brand into all manner of leather goods. They were confident that the


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