Is slower growth the new trend for luxury goods as popularity of services rises?

20 Dec 2016

Luxury goods brands face challenges as consumers shift their focus to services and allocate a greater proportion of disposable income to travel and entertainment.

The effect will be a global slowdown in growth for the luxury goods sector with brands required to innovate in order to succeed.

Macquarie’s luxury goods analyst Daniele Gianera believes the high annual growth rates experienced in the luxury goods market over the past decade are now a thing of the past. 

“Consumers are allocating more spending to travel and entertainment and when that happens, something else in the market will suffer,” he says. “Luxury goods are under pressure for that reason.” 

Between 2005 and 2015, global annual growth in the sector accelerated to 8 per cent, but Macquarie research estimates this will fall to 2 per cent going into 2017.

Gianera believes medium term growth will average about 3 per cent per year.

“The blue-sky scenario would be 4 per cent,” he says.

However, spending on luxury services such as travel, eating out, accommodation and recreation has risen 5.5 per cent in the past year and is growing faster than it was a year ago.

Gianera says the shift from goods to services is a global trend first observed among US consumers and is now visible in other markets, including China.

The successful brand today is the one that can keep innovating.

He says consumers’ tastes evolve with their income levels: once a luxury consumer has acquired a number of high-quality goods, they then begin spending more on luxury experiences such as first class plane tickets, five star resorts, spa visits, fine dining and concierge services.

Experiences also have the advantage of helping consumers create memories of time well spent.

Gianera says luxury goods brands that innovate and offer something new are best placed to respond to a changing customer profile.

When luxury brand Gucci experienced slower growth in 2014 and 2015, owner Kering responded by relaunching the brand with a new designer, new look stores and investment in digital technology that uses customer data to monitor what consumers are looking for and which items are working in their stores. This level of innovation allowed Gucci to return to positive growth rates in the final quarter of 2015.

Outerwear brand Moncler is another which has successfully innovated by expanding its range to include knitwear and footwear and improving the layout of its stores to create a more luxurious feel. Macquarie estimates the brand will experience double-digit sales growth in the next four years because of this strategy.

Gianera says there will be continued divergence in the luxury goods market as successful brands such as Gucci, Moncler and Louis Vuitton accelerate, while brands that keep following the same patterns fall further behind.

“The successful brand today is the one that can keep innovating,” he says. “Once customers have bought your signature line items, they want something new.”

While the overall outlook for the sector is slower, brands that take initiative and make these changes will continue to do well.

“The good brands will get better, while challenged brands will remain challenged,” Gianera says.

For more information on the report 'Global Luxury Goods – To have or to be' (20 July 2016) contact Macquarie Research.