07.13.10 “FUNCTIONAL LUXURY” A GROWING TREND

There is a shift in meaning for “luxury” as shopping habits change.  According to a recent USA Today article,  many affluent consumers are switching from designer fashion and expensive jewelery to hi-tech and lifestyle experiences.

While many Americans are dipping their toes back into the luxury pool, it’s with a mindset that has been smacked down and radically reshaped by the recession. For many consumers, it’s about owning top technology-based products. Just consider, the four brands now most admired by Americans with six-digit incomes are Apple, Microsoft, Best Buy and Sony (from a recent survey by Affluence Collaborative).

Some “luxury” shopping trends include:

Sales of outdoor artisan pizza ovens (similar to ovens used in pizza parlors) at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet were up 485 last year and are 74% up so far in 2010
Apple and Sony are now emerging as the newest luxury designer labels
Escapist luxury plays into the need for control in a world that has become more difficult to control. Owning new technology allows people to be more organized and efficient, adding to their positive sense of control
Functional luxury – a newly coined phrase from Sony is about a product providing a new experience and a confidence that the brand delivers quality and reliability
Value and luxury have become synonymous, even legendary Manolo Blahnik is selling a line of ballet flats for $395. Might not seem like value, but the line usually goes for $500 and upwards of $900. Even Coach is adding more bags at lower price points and emphasizing function rather than the lower prices

Whatever your idea of luxury is, there is always a luxury discount site to fulfill your every whim. Gilt.com has garnered more than 2 million members in just two years, and the auction-like shopping frenzy only adds to its appeal. Luxury brands are all trying to reinvent themselves and deliver a better experience and it seems the economy has just shifted the definition of luxury.