Luxury brands don’t need to fear the Millennials — but they do need to compete with the across-the-board strength of Louis Vuitton and with Burberry, which outperforms with young shoppers in the U.S. and China.
A UBS survey of 2,109 luxury consumers in the U.S. and China found little evidence that younger shoppers care more about experiences than luxury when their attitudes are compared with older consumers. That flies in the face of an oft-repeated argument that sees a bearish future for high-end goods as twentysomethings vie to live in the now.
UBS analyst Helen Brand said Chinese Millennials appear to act broadly in line with shoppers over 35 and that there were indications that European luxe brands could gain traction by targeting the younger set.
“The under 35s told us that they spent 10 to 20 percent more than the older generations on luxury goods last year and 60 percent of consumers see their personal finances improving compared to 33 percent of 35-plus-year-olds,” Brand wrote in a research note. “Price is not the core purchasing driver, with quality and timelessness more important.”
To successfully court Millennials, brands need to understand their nuances from market to market and speak to them in their own language.
“The results of our survey suggest that the brands need to work hard to win over the Chinese Millennial consumers who appear less brand loyal than the older generation,” Brand said. “It is a different picture in the U.S., where the Millennial consumers appear less skeptical of luxury brands with higher brand loyalty. Overall we believe that having a strong online presence is important to presenting the right image to Millennials and companies advanced here — such as Burberry, but also Gucci and Louis Vuitton — are well placed to win. This is especially the case in China where the Millennial consumer is more likely to purchase via Daigou [the gray market], which we see as a risk to brand equity.”
Among Chinese luxe shoppers, Burberry and Saint Laurent came out markedly stronger with the Millennial consumer than older shoppers, while Gucci, Prada and Chanel came out weaker. Louis Vuitton was the best performer across both older and younger consumers in China.
In the U.S., Burberry and Chanel outperformed with Millennials while Louis Vuitton showed broad strength.