Hanging up on luxury handsets
Alas and alack, Vertu is no more. Founded by Nokia in 2002, the manufacturer of handmade, luxury mobile phones was designed to attract those true believers in the power of the consumer-led economic recovery — those for whom paying a small fortune for an iphone X was just not enough.
Before its demise, Vertu managed to flog 500,000 phones, ranging from a standard stainless steel and titanium model to a jewel-encrusted
Boucheron extravaganza that was yours for a cheeky £1m.
The top end of the luxury goods market has proved remarkably strong as the really rich get ever richer, but Vertu found itself caught between two stools. Too bling by a factor for the average civilian, and yet by many reports insufficiently ostentatious to attract the eye of the gold Lamborghini market, sales started to wobble after Nokia sold the company in 2012. Then the Chinese government pulled the plug on the party of “business gift-giving” — spelt B-R-I-B-E-S — and the company wobbled through a couple of owners until it collapsed into liquidation in July in circumstances that have now got the lawyers drooling.
Perhaps the real problem was that luxury goods need a decent shelf-life — Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe’s iconic advertising campaign tells you, for example, that “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
This is always going to be a hard sell to replicate in a niche where technology is moving so rapidly that a phone looks like a museum piece five years after it was state of the art — and it proved too much for Vertu.