Outlets see the wealth of 'luxury for less'

The luxury consumer is commonly considered immune from smaller economic upheavals, such as soaring gas prices or plummeting home values.

The luxury consumer is commonly considered immune from smaller economic upheavals, such as soaring gas prices or plummeting home values. However, the Wall Street carnage of recent months is another matter, and it's having an impact not just on high-end goods and services, but also on editorial that's focused on those affluent products and lifestyles.

Robb Report and Departures are not going to stop writing about luxury goods – that's who they are and what their subscriber base wants,” notes Darlene Fiske, founder of Austin, TX-based The Fiske Group, which has a client list including high-end destinations like spas. “But with more mainstream outlets, we're proceeding with caution when it comes to luxury-themed stories. I've heard from more than one journalist that they're steering clear of even the word luxury.”

“A few years ago it was all about over extravagance and bling, and now it's more about smart luxury and luxury for less,” adds Karen Weiner Escalera, president of Coral Gables, FL-based KWE Group, which specializes in high-end travel destinations.

Jeff Gremillion, editor-in-chief of Houston magazine, one of Modern Luxury's city-specific lifestyle outlets, suggests that luxury-themed outlets are cognizant that many of their readers are worried and are responding by tweaking the tone of coverage.

“We still cover the same general themes – local fine dining, the art scene, home interiors, fashion, and regional travel – so we're certainly going to strike all the same notes,” he says. “But it may be a shift from a high-end practical service approach to a more aspirational approach. There are some practical concerns people have as to what luxury means today compared to what it might have meant a year ago, or what it might mean a year from now.”

Luxury outlets have long claimed that they are not concerned with the highest cost so much as the high value. But the current economic turmoil is putting that to the test. “Even the high end has seen they're stock portfolio drop by 30% or more, and luxury travel and luxury retail are feeling the pinch,” says Lorraine Abelow, head of Westport, CT-based Abelow Public Relations. “So we're focusing now on value-oriented travel packages and specials.”

Fiske adds that even the aspirational-luxury stories found in many newspapers are focused as much on the deals as they are on the products or services themselves. “When mainstream outlets talk about luxury goods, they're talking about how much they're on sale, especially now for the holidays,” she adds.

Gremillion stresses that this type of coverage doesn't mean luxury is going away, only that it and the media have to evolve. “We're always trying to redefine the notion of luxury,” he adds. “So we're definitely interested in hearing about clever ideas on new luxuries.”

Pitching...luxury

  • Avoid flash and extravagance for the time being – luxury products and services are getting covered, but the media focus is more on low-key, smart luxury
  • Most major newspapers still have a weekly style or design section, which can be a great way to build market-by-market awareness of a client's luxury products
  • There are plenty of online luxury outlets and social media sites, which can be effective in building brand affinity with youth, who will eventually become affluent consumers

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