Luxury Alert: The Competition

April 1998

Professional Insider

  Luxury Alert: The Competition

What's competing with jewelry stores to capture consumers' dollars these days? Here's a sampling of trends.

... Ducati motorcycles made it into last holiday's Neiman Marcus catalog and now the company is about to open New York boutiques. The once-proud motorcycle had fallen on hard times but it's now coming on strong in the U.S. "This is not a mechanical industry thing. This is about exclusivity, luxury, having fun," Ducati's new chief executive officer told The Wall Street Journal.

... Upscale steakhouses are all over the place these days. From the venerable Palm and Morton's of Chicago, to Ruth's Chris and Smith & Wollensky, beef is back and it isn't cheap! Beef dinners can cost $30 before drinks or appetizers. Total sales are skyrocketing at all these chains and expansion plans continue. What's the attraction? Restaurant industry analysts say simple menus and a common love of beef among Americans is fueling the trend. The popularity of martinis, cigars, lounge singers and Las Vegas hasn't hurt either. Frank, Dino and Sammy would approve. Hopefully, consumers will think also of those diamond lovers such as Marilyn, Liz Taylor and other '50s and '60s icons.

... Palm Pilots are everywhere among the smart set these days. The hand-held minicomputers fit easily into a breast pocket or purse; more than a million have been sold in the U.S. since their debut in 1996. At around $300 each, they're not wildly extravagant, but they could replace the purchase of a pair of gold earrings.

... German car fascination is back. Consumers are flocking to car shows and hailing the combination of better make at good prices. It's the quality/value thing all over again. Though the cars are still pricey, there are Mercedes, BMWs, and Audis at more reasonable prices now and consumers are snapping them up. The Wall Street Journal credits an aggressive drive toward better efficiency at the factory, technical innovations and consumer-friendly features that Americans like (such as cupholders) for the renewed popularity.

... St. Bart's is the island spot du jour for the moneyed set, where hotel rooms start at about $500 per night, says The New York Times. But the scene may peak in about two years, say insiders, and the island will go back to its roots as a haven for old-money families from France and the U.S. East Coast. What's out? The ski scene in places such as Aspen is a bit old, as are thoroughbred racing watering holes.

... Taking the grandchildren on vacations is hot, say several trend watchers in the travel business. The "experience" is key to this trend. But some naysayers believe it won't last because parents don't want children to miss school. There's also the fatigue factor. Children are a bigger handful on the road than many grandparents may remember.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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