Lux­ury is the new stan­dard

As a so­ci­ety we have be­come so ad­dicted to lux­ury that it is the new nor­mal, says Bill Jamieson, with the amount we spend on top brands and money-can-buy ex­pe­ri­ences climb­ing in­ex­orably no mat­ter how dire the eco­nomic con­di­tions

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

W en the Ed­i­tor of Scot­tish Field kindly in­vited me to write a col­umn for this lux­ury edi­tion, I im­me­di­ately felt that first hand re­search was surely needed. To­day, what’s on-trend is not so much rich stuff – the yachts, the Maser­atis, the Fran­cis Ba­con orig­i­nals – in­stead, it’s all about the ex­pe­ri­ence. Ex­otic out-of-the-box hol­i­days; div­ing with sharks; five-star lux­ury ho­tel stays; liv­er­ied staff who can be sum­moned with the gen­tlest tug on a vel­vet rope to bring Cham­pagne (or a cheese toastie if that’s what you re­quire) on a sil­ver salver.

What could I not ex­pe­ri­ence on the ed­i­tor’s gen­er­ous ex­penses? I de­cided to start near home, with the top-class Gle­nea­gles Ho­tel – surely there must be plenty of rooms avail­able in this era of deep eco­nomic un­cer­tainty and grim aus­ter­ity? But imag­ine my con­ster­na­tion on find­ing that Gle­nea­gles was fully booked in the first week of Au­gust. I had to set­tle for a five-night stay at the end of the month – a room for two cost­ing a snip at £1,850 for five nights, although in fair­ness that does in­clude break­fast. And the TripAd­vi­sor re­views were a rave.

Then there was the un­miss­able op­por­tu­nity for grouse shoot­ing with a few pals. Here I have to ad­mit that the cost was a tri­fle hair-rais­ing – for a party of six over three or four days the bill can range up to £35,000. I didn’t dare ask whether the wi-fi is free.

I could, of course, go for a top-of-the-class 257ft lux­ury yacht to cruise the Scot­tish coast and be­yond. Costs can range up to £630,000 a week to hire.

Af­ter this, it was back to Ed­in­burgh to file my ar­ti­cle. And from where bet­ter to file on lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence than the mag­nif­i­cent Wal­dorf As­to­ria, where I could ex­pe­ri­ence the top de­lights of the Fes­ti­val, chauf­feur-driven vis­its to Muir­field and din­ner at the Witchery, although I’d really have to check in for a few days. The tar­iff for seven nights is £3,808, or £544 a day: although I pre­sume that would in­clude a com­pli­men­tary copy of Scot­tish Field in the bed­room?

As I sat in a lux­ury spa hav­ing my nails buffed to the sooth­ing notes of Mozart played by a harpist flown in from the Vi­enna Phil­har­monic, I idly tot­ted up my ex­penses. A wispy ap­pre­hen­sion drifted over­head, a tiny smidgeon of doubt: would Scot­tish Field pay up?

But then two fea­tures stood out amid the mas­sive ac­cu­mu­la­tion of facts and fig­ures gleaned by my ded­i­cated team of re­searchers hired from the top con­sul­tancy com­pa­nies.

Both cheered and sur­prised in equal mea­sure. The first was that, de­spite our barely pal­pi­tat­ing econ­omy, the gurn­ing and moan­ing about cut­backs and aus­ter­ity, the im­pen­e­tra­ble clouds of ap­pre­hen­sion over Brexit and fear­ful warn­ings of an­other credit crash, spend­ing on lux­ury goods and ser­vices con­tin­ues to rise, here in the UK and world-wide. Down­turns, pan­ics and re­ces­sions come and go. But our hunger for the in­ef­fa­ble thrill of plea­sures be­yond ev­ery­day reach is in­sa­tiable.

And the sec­ond was the strik­ing shift in lux­ury spend­ing to­wards ex­pe­ri­ences as well as goods and ser­vices: that lux­ury is not merely own­ing an Abramovich yacht, a ten-bed­room house in Bel­gravia or a pri­vate jet. It is ex­is­ten­tial: its Sil­ver ser­vice The death of def­er­ence and de­ifi­ca­tion of as­pi­ra­tion means we all be­lieve we de­serve life’s lux­u­ries.

high­est apogee is a state of lux­ury be­ing. ‘Lux­ury,' says Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group se­nior part­ner Antonella Mei-Pochtler, ‘is shift­ing rapidly from “hav­ing” to “be­ing” – that is, con­sumers are mov­ing from own­ing a lux­ury prod­uct to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a lux­ury. They al­ready have the lux­ury toys; the cars and the jew­ellery.'

I know the feel­ing. And as I pon­der the dizzy­ing heights of my ex­pense claim, I feel that I am fi­nally there, at the very pin­na­cle.

Es­ti­mates of lux­ury spend­ing vary widely – as does the def­i­ni­tion of ‘lux­ury'. It can in­clude ev­ery­thing be­yond what we need to sur­vive and reach a ba­sic level of com­fort. Any­thing on top could be de­fined as ‘lux­ury' – and most of us on that def­i­ni­tion could be said to have spent some­thing.

We can be stretched to af­ford a host of lux­ury goods, and the fastest grow­ing cat­e­gory for the world's top pro­duc­ers are ac­ces­sories – hand­bags, key ring hold­ers, phone and tablet cov­ers, and sun­glasses. The mar­ket for these is fore­cast to reach £66.3 bil­lion in 2019.

Ac­cord­ing to mar­ket data spe­cial­ists Euromon­i­tor, the growth of the global lux­ury mar­ket has been as­ton­ish­ing, and con­tin­ues to be so. It fore­casts spend­ing on lux­ury goods to hit $463 bil­lion (£355 bil­lion) by 2019, an in­crease of 88 per cent in 10 years. The UK mar­ket for lux­ury goods is fore­cast to be worth up to £54 bil­lion ac­cord­ing to Fron­tier Eco­nom­ics, up from £32 bil­lion in four years. It puts a much higher value on Bri­tain's lux­ury in­dus­try than pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates, which val­ued it at around £8 bil­lion.

Around 78 per cent of lux­ury prod­ucts com­ing out of the UK – de­fined by Walpole as in­clud­ing de­signer clothes, shoes and high-end cars – are des­tined for over­seas mar­kets. Re­cent year-on-year growth has been run­ning at just over 12 per cent, due largely to a strong per­for­mance in the lux­ury car sec­tor by Rolls Royce and Jaguar Land Rover.

How have we come to view a hand­bag as an item sig­nalling pres­tige, wealth and lux­ury? Big de­sir­able names can cost thou­sands of pounds. Much of this is the re­sult of skil­ful mar­ket­ing and pric­ing, with price points tempt­ing the less af­flu­ent to part with money that they can't af­ford, or worse still, don't have. But this can have the op­po­site ef­fect and hit the brand mys­tique if car­ried too far and risks di­min­ish­ing the brand, as Burberry found when its dis­tinc­tive check be­gan to be sported by foot­ball sup­port­ers. Burberry had be­come a vic­tim of its own suc­cess. The com­pany changed di­rec­tion and is now in the top 10 of the world's lux­ury brands – ac­cord­ing to In­ter­brand it is now worth £4.3 bil­lion. Louis Vuit­ton tops the global list with sales of £17.3 bil­lion, fol­lowed by Gucci at £7.9 bil­lion and Her­mes at £6.8 bil­lion.

But more than ever, it's lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ences that have be­come in vogue. Some £350 bil­lion is reck­oned to be spent on one-of-a-kind travel ad­ven­tures such as ex­pe­di­tions to the Antarc­tic or be­spoke sa­faris. Other growth ar­eas in­clude fine art and wine, of­ten now seen by col­lec­tors as at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive in­vest­ments to in­vest­ing in the stock mar­ket.

Of the $1.4 tril­lion spent world-wide on lux­u­ries in 2013, Bos­ton Con­sult­ing cal­cu­lates an es­ti­mated £768 bil­lion went on ser­vices – from pri­vate air­line flights to lux­ury slim­ming clin­ics, or a fives­tar hos­pi­tal stay with en-suite fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing a mar­ble bath. This stag­ger­ing fig­ure is slightly more than the wealth con­trolled by the poor­est half of the world's pop­u­la­tion, some 3.5 bil­lion peo­ple.

A key fea­ture of the lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence is al­lure – cre­at­ing a pam­pered and ex­clu­sive at­mos­phere. It's not enough for buy­ers of a top price Ar­mani item or piece of Tif­fany jew­ellery sim­ply to ac­quire the prod­uct. The very ac­tion of pur­chase has in it­self to be a lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence, with per­son­alised ser­vice. Lux­ury, in the words of Jean Bien­ayme of up­mar­ket jew­eller Van Cleef and Ar­pels, ‘is an ex­pe­ri­ence we of­fer to our clients, im­mers­ing them in a magic and en­chant­ing uni­verse'.

For Scot­land, cur­rently en­joy­ing a buoy­ant tourism and vis­i­tor sea­son due to the fall in the pound, there is a sil­ver lin­ing to this golden cloud. Man­age­ment con­sul­tancy firm Bain & Com­pany re­cently cal­cu­lated that more than half of lux­ury goods sales in the UK are driven by tourism. The big­gest spenders to­day are typ­i­cally Asian, par­tic­u­larly Chi­nese, and Rus­sian.

Lux­ury, it seems, is a ne­ces­sity for a full life. And now, I must go, for the Lam­borgh­ini is pur­ring out­side and Forbes the chauf­feur is toot­ing on the horn (must re­mem­ber to add him to ex­penses).

‘Lux­ury is shift­ing rapidly from ‘hav­ing’ to ‘be­ing’ – con­sumers are mov­ing from own­ing a lux­ury prod­uct to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a lux­ury’

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