Luxury Product Watch

October 1998

Professional Insider:Trend Spotting

Luxury Product Watch

Many companies lust after a piece of the high-rent pie

Because all products that command upscale consumers' attention whittle away at their disposable incomes, awareness of the competition is crucial for jewelers. So here it is, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Motorcycles ... Again
They used to be called Yuppies, but the Baby Boomers who now motorcycle to ride away from middle age are derisively called "Rubs" (rich urban bikers) by traditional Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, reports The New York Times. From surgeons with beepers to advertising directors with kids in tow, these new bikers are everywhere, creating up to a two-year waiting list for the American-made motorcycles. Rubs model themselves after Liam Neeson, Matthew Broderick and other celebrity cool-seekers, reports The Times. An exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City called "The Art of the Motorcycle" just added to the cachet by celebrating motorbike design. With bikes costing anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000, this is one serious threat to a jewelry purchase. Tip for jewelers? Make wearing jewelry look cool, quick!

Beauty Emporia
When it comes to a safe "feel-good drug" for the late '90s, many affluent women choose jewelry. But an arguably larger number are flocking to day spas and other beauty palaces to feel the glow. The undeniable "experience" involved in such pampering is a factor, but so are the products that women cart away to prolong the happiness. Cosmetics companies are having fits over all the makeup and skin products sold at day spas, reports The Wall Street Journal. They're competing by bringing a little of the spa experience to the department store. Companies such as Estèe Lauder operate mini-spas on site, and Shiseido gives free shiatsu facials and foot massages at – or one hopes – behind the counter.

Nipping at department store and day spas' heels is another beauty interloper: luxury beauty superstores such as Sephora, France's well-known perfume and cosmetics retailer. Sephora began its advance into the U.S. this summer and joins other beauty "play places" where observers say women can go and spritz 'til they drop and apply makeup enough to tire even Barbie. Jeweler's challenge? You better have some expensive toys that customers can play with too.

Food, Shelter ... and Toys Too
It's not just women and Baby Boomers retailers aim for with upscale products these days. Families come in for their share of goodies too. Hardware giants such as Home Depot, Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Lowe's all have divisions that sell refrigerators for $7,000, deluxe patio sets and expensive Karastan rugs, says The Wall Street Journal.

Mattel is hedging its bets that cheap old Barbie isn't enough for little girls anymore. It recently bought Pleasant Co., maker of American Girl dolls, which sell for close to $100 each – and that's before the clothes, accessories and books. Advice to jewelers? Help those indulgent grandmothers understand that the doll will be in a trunk in a few years ... but even a little diamond will last forever!




Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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