Luxury shoppers cut back in Europe

21 February 2012

PARIS: Many European luxury consumers are continuing to cut spending on high-end goods, a category where less than 5% of customers boosted their outgoings in the last year, a report has found.

In a new report, McKinsey, the consultancy, stated that Europe currently delivers 36% of global luxury sector sales, and also proved the most resilient mature market from 2007-11, with a compound annual growth rate of 2%, rising to 9% for 2009-11.

Although Europe was the only mature region to see totals rise in 2011 year on year, McKinsey suggested a "troubling dynamic" was at work, with foreign tourists disproportionately driving this growth.

As evidence for this, it reported that the number of Chinese, Japanese and Russian shoppers visiting Europe's leading tourist sites rose by 19% from 2009 to 2010. This pace of acceleration hit 35% for Chinese tourists.

McKinsey's survey of 4,500 luxury consumers in France, Germany, Italy and the UK also discovered that 49% had reduced the number of high-end items they bought in the last 12 months, while 48% had seen no change and 3% had increased their number of purchases.

When assessing current attitudes, 39% of the sample were "not considering" purchasing these products at present, 25% were "putting off" such acquisitions, 20% had recently obtained a relevant item and 16% were "still considering" doing so.

Exactly 20% of participants were willing to pay full price when buying these offerings, whereas 28% were solely buying lines on sale, although this latter amount had decreased from 32% last year.

Even when considering "classic goods that can be used for many years", the willingness to pay full price reached just 27%. Moreover, a modest 22% of the panel now enjoyed possessing luxury items "as much as they always have".

Perhaps more positively, 30% of McKinsey's cohort were willing to trim their luxury goods spending in order to enjoy more exclusive experiences, rising to 31% in the UK and 33% in Italy.

Elsewhere, 17% of interviewees reported having switched to less expensive brands when buying apparel products, a figure that increased by four percentage points year on year.

When breaking out data for "top-tier" shoppers with earnings of over €100,000, McKinsey revealed 33% had bought at least one luxury line in the last 12 months, falling to 20% of "mid-tier" consumers.

Similarly, the most affluent group spent €2,800 per person per year on such goods, falling to €1,200 for their mid-tier counterparts. The wealthier cohort preferred buying from brand boutiques, whereas the latter looked to outlets and bargain stores.

"Top-tier consumers say that their buying inspiration comes mostly from store visits, while in the middle and lower tiers, media, including shopping websites and TV, play a stronger role," McKinsey added.

Data sourced from McKinsey' additional content by Warc staff