Culture Vulture, Luxury Edition 05

Victoria Cook

From space tourism to jewelencrusted mineral water bottles, we have seen a huge increase in the sale of 'non-essential' goods and experiences, thanks to the global rise in the numbers of wealthy and the middle class. There were an estimated 330 million luxury consumers in 2013, increasing by 10 million per year, spending €217bn, according to Bain & Co. 'Lens On The Worldwide Luxury Consumer', January 2014. Derived from the Latin word 'luxus' meaning excess, today the concept of luxury is constantly evolving and, as we shall see, subjective. It is typically used to describe products and defines an aesthetic but, increasingly, it denotes an experience and the availability of time.

The luxury market has, by its own admission, been wary of the democratic 'free for all' nature of digital channels. In spite of this, luxury brand sales online are up 28% 2013 vs. 2012, according to Bain & Co. Luxury Goods Worldwide Study, and the increasing number of affluent millenials will further drive this trend. Nevertheless, discovering new products in store and of course 'showrooming' are extremely important – the tactile nature and physical beauty of luxury products, along with the contextual in-store environments and the human touch of personal service, are impossible to represent in the virtual world.