With 2019 recently coming to a close, in many parts of the world the socio-economic-political gloom paints a not-so-rosy picture. However, the rich continue to spend, and the personal luxury goods market continues to grow at 4 percent. Despite disturbances in Hong Kong, the reality of Brexit and the Modi government facing its worst crisis since it returned to power for a second term, the global luxury industry continues to grow.
Facing a somewhat depressive backdrop laced with geo-political uncertainties and fears of recession, is there hope for India’s luxury industry? Will India's wealthiest consumers continue to spend? And how should luxury brands prepare themselves for not only survival, but for a growth trajectory?
There is no doubt that the Indian luxury opportunity remains expansive and appealing. However, considering the cultural diversity, the geographic divide, the challenging environment and other technicalities, luxury brands would benefit from taking note of the key performance drivers and trends currently prevalent India.
With Millennials and Gen Z seeking authenticity over brand names, the true mix and match culture is at its peak. With luxury brands trading down and high street fashion brands trading up, the trend is the amalgamation of the two. We have now begun to see stylists effortlessly showcasing an expensive handbag or shoe with a Marks & Spencer's dress or even a Zara ensemble.
The latest announcement of collaborative efforts is a new collection designed by Sabyasachi Mukerjhee for H&M.; The Sabyasachi x H&M; collaboration, themed “Wanderlust," will present hand-crafted, eclectic travel pieces that will resonate with the modern global nomad wanting to add that extra something to their wardrobe.
Image credit: Sabyasachi x H&M;
From cars to watches to fashion and accessories, the new luxury consumer prefers to buy a cheaper, higher-positioned luxury product over the traded down lower level of a luxury brand. Clearly, democratised luxury lines are facing the heat from their own higher- ups. Names like Big Boyz Toyz have created history by clocking unheard of sales via their online platforms, while Luxepolis and Confidential Couture are taking a lead in bringing pre-loved luxury to the masses at a affordable price.
The wellness transformation of the luxury beauty and skincare market has taken a major leap with the emergence of South Korea as a leader. Have the Koreans discovered the elixir of youth, or is it all just a marketing puff? The advent of TikTok celebrities from smaller towns drawing instant fame to almost cult positions is driving small town India toward a phenomenon. Whilst the likes of H&M;, Marks and Spencer, and Zara bring fast fashion to small towns, it’s the beauty business that seems to be laughing all the way to the bank. After all, you can’t rent a lipstick, can you?
With the clearance of India's Article 377, open acceptance of the LGTBQ community is being celebrated all over. Trends in fashion are becoming more universal and gender-neutral, followed by both the beauty and jewellery industries.
Digital assistants by virtue of remote devices are now being discarded and replaced by voice-activated assistants. This generation of Indian consumers is over the days of lifting even a finger, but rather prefers voice recognition to command devices. Technology is aiding this preference in full-force, from televisions to air conditioners to cars and mobile phones, most digital devices are well on their way to responding to their master's voice.
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The desire to see more, explore more, share more and post more is driving young people to locate, experience and wander to unchartered territories. Mini-vacations are replacing month-long family holidays. Hoards of SUVS are on the roads for young travelers eager to take full advantage of weekends long and short in order to get a micro-break from reality.
With traffic and environment conditions deteriorating, new models of work, living and entertainment are emerging. With a customer’s time being at a premium, anything which can help save time and offer convenience is preferred. A new trend toward home delivery, home shopping, and home entertainment is creating a new economy. The gig economy, on-demand retail, entertainment hubs, and real-estate projects are rapidly growing trends in India.
With more and more brands focusing on the young, a newer crop of products seems to be quietly targeting aging baby boomers. Aptly coined as "seenagers," this cohort has the money to spend, is knowledgeable, patient and willing to experiment unlike their forefathers. Special living homes, assisted travels, curated holidays and service at the snap of your finger are being designed and offered to this generation of consumers.
A strong case exists for catering to first-time luxury buyers who have recently seen a rise in their disposable income. Thanks to 4G, they now have access to cheap and fast internet via smartphones. With sophisticated tastes and awareness of international trends, this affluent demographic wants better goods and services, which the luxury industry is prime to offer. Brands like UNIQLO, H&M; and Zara are all quickly winning the to fast, affordable fashion.
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Another mega-trend is fueling demand for activewear and sportswear. Worldwide there is a cultural shift toward sports, including running and yoga, as part of a growing emphasis on fitness, especially among the urban population. Technology is getting integrated as part of wearable products, with "smart" clothing items embedded with health sensors and medical monitors already on the market. Outside of apparel, wearable fitness items that sync to smart phones have gone mainstream.
The above forecast is partly credited to the yet to be released book ‘The Incredible Indian Luxury Bazaar,’ authored by Abhaya Gupta.
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