AMEX Publishing’s Luxury Conference Recap

Luxury: The Remix 2013 was the theme of this year’s American Express Publishing’s Luxury Conference held April 21 – 32 in Dana Point CA.  Held at the beautiful St Regis in Monarch Beach, Maxine and I were living the good life in CA sunshine for a few days. 

Interesting and timely topics including change, fast moving wealth, technology and innovation were all discussed in great detail by iconic industry leaders such as Sir Richard Branson, Robert Chavez, Domenico De Sole and Jane Lauder. 

What we love about the AMEX conference is the diversified field of attendees – we get to mingle and network with people from hospitality, retail, automotive, beverage and media – all focused on selling to and servicing the luxury consumer.

 Aside from the networking we also get to learn a lot.  As a fellow attendee commented to me “I always leave her smarter – the content is amazing”. 

 We found out that the cycle of wealth has never been so fast – 1/3 of all millionaires today weren’t millionaires’ 3 years ago.  And they are traveling.  For example we learned from Robert Frank about a Lamborghini dealership in Miami who sells a car every few days – but has not sold one to an American in 2 years.  These people are dubbed the TLC – Traveling Luxury Consumer – and if you are a brand, and are not getting their attention – you are in trouble. 

 Frits van Paasschen advised the audience to “Focus on Trend lines – not Headlines” which is something Bill Clinton told his management team at Starwood when he spoke to them last year.

 From a retail perspective the Design District in Miami seems to be the hottest real estate in the country – with residential development starting to be focused on. 

 Some things haven’t changed … we’ve heard for a few years now that consumers are spending on things that mean something to them.  Experiences – travel and second homes sales are increasing.  Investments are also doing well – jewelry as a category is on an upswing.  Heritage – collecting items is no longer what matters to most people.  General consensus is that if you are going to spend the money there needs to be a certain reason – craftsmanship and service leading the way. 

 Dominico De Sole said “Quality will be remembered long after the price is forgotten”.  No matter how wealthy people are looking for a sense of value and the key to a successful brand is the ability to tell a story.  Stores should be a temple to a brand – which is how they have built the Tom Ford business – limited, steady growth.