The #ChampagneCampaign tour stopped in Knoxville TN for another pleasurable event hosted by yours truly. Here’s a repost to a gracious article written about the event at The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel.
The #ChampagneCampaign tour stopped in Knoxville TN for another pleasurable event hosted by yours truly. Here’s a repost to a gracious article written about the event at The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel.
It’s always fun to help discerning clients on their wine journey. It’s all about the pleasure, and memories you make with your #ChampagneChoices.
Here is a repost link to a nice blog post written about a Champagne event I hosted. #ChampagneCampaign
I’ve taken a long time away from writing on this blog because I thought I couldn’t say what I wanted without going really deep into what I do for a living. Someone smart told me that doesn’t matter if I add value to the people in my network. If you don’t know what I do, I am sure you can dig up enough research online. My purpose remains the same: I give people access to the best that life has to offer – particularly wines and spirits.
As a luxury professional specializing in the wine & spirits vertical, I have a strong talent for helping clients procure very expensive wines, which they don’t typically desire until they get to try them with me. Well, I can humbly tell you it’s not because of my looks and charm (that only worked on my wife… thank God she liked what I was selling). It’s because I have a very unique way of presenting rare wines and spirits – I tell stories and help my clients make memories.
My approach stems from a belief that most, if not all people, hate disappointment and failure. Think about it! Who wakes up in the morning and says “today I’m looking forward to failing?” Probably only the rare few that understand that failure is a pit stop on the way to success. However, most of us (even myself at times) dread failure, and its hard to coax ourselves out of those mental prisons that prevent us from fulfilling our potential, expressing true affection or a fashion sense, and even drinking good wine.
In the same way, many collectors hate failing when it comes to selecting wine for their palates and cellars. That’s why most consumers rarely “roll the dice” on a bottle of wine from an unknown producer, even if the wine is made from a varietal they like. They would rather buy the wine recommended by someone else (whose palate and preferences may sometimes differ from theirs).
So most often than not, they rely on the advice and selections from wine professionals like me. It’s unfortunate that I have to say this, but I think many wine pros focus so much on selling the brands that we represent, without any real consideration for where our clients are in their wine journey. We should be working on selling an experience and creating a memory they can remember and associate with our brands for the rest of their lives.
A better way to think about this is real estate.
So imagine you are an agent for a client looking for a three bedroom – two bath home on a half acre plot. Your client knows exactly what they want and probably how much they would like to pay (they might not know how much they will have to pay). Most agents would try their best to find exactly what the client wants.
I take a different approach.
I peel back the client’s expressed needs and expectations to identify their unexpressed desires. I “walk the block” with the client from where they are to show them where “they might want to be in the future.” As a result, I will show my client the five bedroom – three bath home on 10 acres with a little woodshed for him/her to make that custom furniture piece they’ve been trying to produce in their spare time. I don’t do that because I think they should buy a more expensive property. I do it because I want them to have a glimpse of an alternate future. I want to give them something to look forward to, so I capture them with a possible expression of their innate dreams. I may end up selling the customer exactly what they wanted to begin with – but guess who they rely on when they want to fulfil their ultimate vision…me!
We aren’t just chasing the status and social confirmation that our bank accounts and material possessions afford us. We are chasing the memories that make our lives rich and meaningful. Give your clients more than they ask for… give them all they could possibly want and help them build a vision for the future. I guarantee they’ll stick with you because you help them make memories.
I’ve ranted and gone around the block a couple times, but that’s consultative selling in a nutshell.
PS: I had a lot of fun writing this post. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Drink some good wine with someone you admire after this and I’m sure you’ll understand why I do my job so well. Today, someone whose mind I greatly admire received the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of Behavioral Economics. Irrational behavior and animal spirits are everywhere…. even in luxury and the business of alcohol.
Less than a year ago, I wrote about JCP’s “square pricing” strategy created under CEO, Ron Johnson. The pricing strategy was intended to help the retailer grow its business, however, latest indications show the company has recorded four consecutive quarters of decline.
In combating the consumer backlash, Mr. Johnson is rolling out some of the previously discontinued sales that JCP is known for. There is no indication as to how many sale campaigns the retailer will bring back, but JCP’s CEO has vowed not to return to levels where the company ran up to 600 sales promotions each year. Supposedly, the retailer is going to introduce a limited number of promotions that tie in with the core habits of its consumer set – shoppers who only buy when they need something and require high value.
It’s bad enough that most of JCP’s consumers have decided to shop at its competitors (Kohl’s, Target, Dillard’s, and Macy’s to name a few). What’s worse is that Wall Street investors have also lost confidence in the stock. After losing more than half of its value, Penney stock is now trading at around $19. The company will also find it hard to raise capital as its credit rating is in the realm of “junk status”.
There is still no light at the end of the tunnel for Ron Johnson’s (RJ) turnaround. Though I was very pessimistic (and correct) in my initial assessment in April, 2012, I wouldn’t quit on RJ just yet. You do know he turned Apple and Target’s retail performance around, right? The past is the best predictor of the future. I just might roll the dice on some JCP stock.
Where do you need to be this month?
In Boston, at the Retail and Luxury Goods Conference, at Harvard Business School. It happens every year (this is the ninth) and is never a dull event. I had some of my best professional moments there. If you can’t make it, you can trust that I’ll take notes for you.
4/15/12 – After the keynote address from Max Azria, I went on to some of the panel sessions. The panel sessions are a little more intimate than the keynotes because you get to hear different perspectives on the same issues that concern retailers today. You’ll see competitors, collaborators, and disruptors in the same room. This year there were four panels and I attended two:
Emerging Markets – The panelists were:
New Business Directions – The panelists were:
After coming out of the station I took this picture of the entrance to the Back Bay Station:
Right across the street from Back Bay Station is an iconic property – Copley Place. This was a good experience for me because just the day before I had the pleasure of conversing with Howard Elkus and Ken Himmel, famous architect and renowned developer respectively.
Later in the evening around 6pm, I went on to the Sheraton Commander Hotel for a networking session and keynote address by Steven Kolb, CEO, The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He set the conference off on a good tone discussing the role and history of the CFDA as well as its efforts to push intellectual property rights for designers in the US.
Key Takeaway from The Luxury Doctrine (a new resource in development):
If you want to be successful, especially in luxury, you have to think of, and act like the customer, at all steps in the value chain… you have to manage the customer’s experience
– Edmund Amoye, Lessons in Luxury
For those who have been following my posts on the different luxury segments, you’ll notice that the key catalyst for success in today’s environment is innovation in managing the customer experience. If you are new to this customer-centric theme, I have a list of related posts at the bottom, to get you up to speed.
In every business there are seasons and cycles – ups and downs. At their rollout to end-users, luxury goods and services are sometimes heralded as innovative novelties and “must haves”. However, as brands permeate, manufacturers innovate, and marketing teams penetrate (I had to use that rhyme… too easy to pass up), commoditization sets in. Luckily, the Ford Motor Co. is doing something about that with its Lincoln automotive brand.
– Top View of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Continue reading
Article Link – Penney’s Pricing Strategy takes a Toll on Sales
Ron Johnson’s bet on JCP’s new retail strategy will not come without its costs. Analysts on Wall Street are expecting JCP’s revenues to drop by “seven percent this fiscal year”. This is worse than the previously forecasted two percent drop because analysts believe “shoppers accustomed to seeing big discounts [will] go to rivals like Macy’s Inc.”. Same-store sales are expected to drop nine percent – lower than the four percent drop that was originally anticipated.
Penney’s new strategy is simple – three tiers:
Though the street expects dire consequences for JCP’s stock in the short term, it also believes that Ron Johnson’s plan will pan out in the longer term by eliminating “unprofitable promotions and [improving] its profit margins overall”.
If successful, this will be a major change in retailing because suddenly the promotional activity will decrease and other retailers will also have to find ways to attract customers… but this is going to take time.
– Walter Loeb, New York-based retail consultant
JCP is expected to offer more details on its performance when it reports its quarterly earnings results in May.
My View: This is a long-term bet, not a strategy that will yield postive returns in the next six to 12 months. Ron Johnson is not trying to change his strategy – he is trying to change the rules of the retail game. His bet is riding on a revamp of the entire retail experience.
Disclaimer: I do not own, or plan to buy any JCP stock in the next 48 hours.
My blog has posts going as far back as April, 2011, but I only started publishing in August, 2011. I didn’t have a huge following when I started. Hey let’s be real, I was probably my only reader – aside from my family.
Today, the unique page views of the blog run in the thousands. Here’s a look at where my readers come from. If my blog was a luxury goods company, we’d be very diversified.
Credit for this post goes to Chase Harps, one of my MBA classmates.
I often find myself having to evangelize for the luxury industry, especially to people that may be skeptical of its necessity or long-term viability. For those people, I am posting a link to a new 2012 brand ranking report from Brand Finance. Based on its findings, the company issued a viewpoint on luxury brands. Entitled “Recession Fails to Dent Consumer Lust for Luxury Brands“, the article lists the following main points. Continue reading
One of the substantial influences that prompted me to start Lessons in Luxury was an industry conference I attended in April, 2011. The event was the Retail & Luxury Goods Conference hosted by the student-run Retail & Luxury Goods Club at Harvard Business School (HBS). Meeting business luminaries such as Tommy Hilfiger, William Lauder, and Stephen Sadove did a lot to help me develop my career ambitions.
This year, you can join me and my cohorts in the Luxury and Retail Club from The College of William and Mary, in Boston, MA. HBS will host the 2012 iteration of its annual conference from April 14, 2012 to April 15, 2012. For more information on registration, keynote speakers, and logistics, go to http://www.hbsrlgconference.com.
Previous speakers at the conference have included:
I look forward to seeing you there.
I found this great article at www.fastcompany.com. The major take aways for businesses that do not want to compete on price are:
If a product can’t live up to the expectations set by its marketing, it won’t be successful for the long term
Building on the confusion of yesterday’s post, today’s entry focuses on the academic justification for a firm’s participation in the luxury segment. Though what appears below is very intellectual, it is very similar to the thoughts I had on the matter long before I ever knew I wanted to work in the luxury segment.
In his work covering business strategy, Michael Porter explains that there are two main categories, in which a firm’s competitive strengths fall: cost leadership and differentiation. Depending on the firm’s market focus (broad or niche), and the uniqueness of its products (custom or commodity) and services, Porter posits four generic strategies a firm can use to develop a competitive advantage. Continue reading
So early this morning, I got an email from JCPenney with the following message:
As you may know, Ron Jonhson (formerly of Apple and Target) now heads the retail giant that goes as far back as the era of shopping catalogs. In facing the huge challenge of transforming one of America’s most unloved retail brands, he’s definitely relying on the many lessons he learned in his 30 years of retail experience.
Today, JCPenney is rolling out a revamped pricing structure and a simplified return policy. The company is moving to “an everyday low price model” by getting rid of coupons and ineffective sales promos. Drawing on what I have learned from Ron Hess in my Customer Experience Management class, the dimensions of pricing and returns most probably have the most impact on customer satisfaction at JCPenney (which drives customer loyalty and profitability in the service-profit chain).
Though pricing is a common complaint of most customers, Ron Johnson’s approach to simplifying this satisfaction component has strong justifications. By making JCPenney’s pricing less complex, Mr. Johnson is trying to eliminate the “buyer’s remorse” felt by customers who purchase items at full price – only to find them heavily discounted in one of the 500+ yearly sales promotions at the company. Below is an excerpt from an interview with the JCP CEO on the retailer’s new policies. It was conducted by Anne D’Innocenzio of The Associated Press.
Q: How did you come up with the new pricing strategy?
A: Pricing is actually a pretty simple and straight forward thing. Customers will not pay literally a penny more than the true value of the product. And as I have been watching the department stores for the past decade, I have been struck by the extraordinary amount of promotional activity, which to me, didn’t feel like it was appropriate for a department store. My instinct was that it wasn’t a good thing.
Q: Won’t shoppers be turned off because they won’t see the big markdowns?
A: I wouldn’t assume they like the pricing strategy. I think they’re insulted by it.
Q: Who are you targeting?
A: We are going after all Americans. We would like to be the store for everyone.
Q: What are your plans to make the shopping experience more exciting?
A: We are going to make the store a place people love to come — just to come. Because they can get support before they’re ready to buy. They can get great support when they want to buy and they can come in after they buy. We’ll transform the buying experience not unlike what we did at Apple.
Q: When will we start to see improvements?
A: You’ll start to see the experience change month by month. Everyone thinks it’s an overnight success but it never is. I was at Apple from 2000 to 2011, but it wasn’t until 2004 that the iPod became an important part of people’s lives. It wasn’t until 2007 that Apple reinvented the phone. It wasn’t until 2009 that Apple launched the iPad. But we look at it today and we feel Apple had always been beloved. It took time and this will take time as well.
Q: What ideals have you embraced from Steve Jobs?
A: The importance of doing everything you do to your very best. And that the journey is the reward. If you do things well one at a time, you end up in a really good place. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Control the things you can.
Q: Other than Apple, which stores do you admire?
A: I admire lots of stores. Whole Foods is a great store. I just like their passion for food. It shows up in everything they do. It shows up in their packaging, their presentation and their employees. Starbucks. It truly has created a community. As I travel around the world, I just know that if I go to Starbucks I will have a great experience.
THANK YOU FOR READING MY BLOG.
My comrades at W&M and WordPress.com have been phenomenal in spreading my posts all over the internet. I wake up a lot of mornings surprised to see the array of readers I have from all over the world, looking in on my scribbled thoughts. I’ve gone from having only one reader – my wife – to getting as many as 100 unique views on days when I do my job right. For me, the metrics don’t really matter as a marketing strength, but as a reflection of interest. So thanks for your interest. I really appreciate it. Let’s grow together in 2012.
Ok, on to today’s rant…
Sometimes, finding good topics for this blog can prove quite challenging. So, I’m always thankful for the readers who send in great material – some of which I am using in today’s post.
First, you should know that the luxury goods and services market in China is growing at an astronomical rate. Forecasts indicate that Chinese luxe will grow at a rate of 20% CAGR by 2015, at which time it will be the second largest market in the world.
One sector of luxury in China that is doing very well is jewelry. Estimated at a worth of $39 billion, the Chinese jewelry market is growing at around 15% per year. Growth has been fueled by a couple of factors:
What is most surprising is the fact in spite of the availability of world renowned jewelry manufacturers and retailers such as Swarovski and Cartier, Chinese consumers are paying increasing attention to homegrown brands – specifically Chow Tai Fook (CTF). The company, owned by billionaire Cheng Yu-tung recently went public. With 1500 outlets and 2010 sales of $4.5 billion, CTF is twice the size of Tiffany & Co.
I’ll leave you with a graphic from The Economist, developed by George Washington University and L2 (a think-tank). It asserts that CTF, as a brand, outperforms well-known international brands in the hearts and minds of Chinese consumers.
Train rides are very enjoyable for me because I get the chance to remain terrestrial. I’m not driving myself, nor am I on a bus going pretty much the same way I would have driven myself. Since train tracks do not always follow “car routes”, I get to take a more scenic view, stumbling upon sights that don’t come into my view on a regular basis. I also like to take trains at times they are sparsely occupied, so that I have a lot of space to myself. The combination of those components makes the ride an enjoyable one. However the real luxury experience can be summed up in one picture from my last trip on Amtrak: Continue reading
So, we can obviously say that relativity plays an important part in the way we think about many things – including luxury. What’s that old adage: One man’s meat is another man’s poison? I read an article from WSJ that brought this idea well into focus for me, and I think it also has some adjacent relevance to the concepts of trends and cycles.
When the great fashion designer, Yves Saint-Laurent started his own couturier in 1958, there wasn’t much in the way of pattern machines or industrial cutters for him to achieve his goal of making womenswear more affordable for the masses. In those times, the best clothing cost too much for common folk because of the time, money, and people that were required to make the ravishing clothing he designed. Today’s more affordable technology could certainly have done much for “la mode”. Continue reading
It’s been a while since I wrote something on this blog. I must apologize for my absence. I took some time off to do some studying. I watched movies, read books, and thought much about the cycle of business. My current curriculum includes books by Vance Packard, Marvin Traub, and Paco Underhill. I intend to have some of their books read by the end of Jan. 2012. You are probably wondering what those studies have to do with luxury and retail. My answer is ALOT.
From fashion to real estate, cycles are the most repetitive phenomenon. For me, business success has little to do with the present, but more with predicting the future. It’s not about what’s going on now, but what will happen in the next month. Thus, in order to get better at “seeing around corners” in the business environment, it’s important to study the past.
I am going as far back as Da Vinci, to learn from successful people who had something profound to say. Vance Packard, Marvin Traub, and Paco Underhill all bear some insight into the history of consumerism, the evolution of modern day retail, and the science of advertising.
They may not all be talking about social media, but ALL of what they say in books like The Hidden Persuaders, Like No Other Store, and Why We Buy should be part of the curriculum of any professional. I view my entrance into luxury and retail like little kids playing jump rope on a Harlem sidewalk. Imagine the little boy waiting for the perfect time to get inside the pattern that the twirling rope takes. It’s the same with business cycles – you just need to have great timing and jump to the rhythm – real well.
It is great to be back.
Yesterday, I forgot to mention that I have successfully completed the 30-day Challenge. I am really proud of the fact that, with exception of a few days where things were beyond my control, I was able to write a blog post every single day, for 30 days. Now that I am done, I’ll slow down just a tad to work on some other projects I have. Now on to more pictures from NYC. Continue reading
30-day Challenge – Day 29
In the second half of this past semester at business school, I took an immersion course in real estate – the best course I have ever taken. The course not only exposed me to the business of real estate, but also introduced me to the nuances of an industry where success is not necessarily about reality, but your ability to create a perception, in which people want to participate.
Real estate can give you a means to exercise your networking, negotiation and selling skills. At the same time, real estate allows you to be very creative in realizing your visions of developing mixed use, multi-family apartments, commercial, or industrial structures. You can literally do anything and the next lines will show that. Continue reading
30-day Challenge – Day 28
It’s been a wonderful and exhausting day. Our LuxRe Club did some consulting work for a large VA winery today, and I’ve been busy doing some necessary follow up.
Today I’m posting a link to an article, entitled “Top 8 Luxury Travel & Marketing Trends for 2012”. I recommend it not only because I read it, but because I do not believe I could give you the gist of it without omitting some important information.
If you are thinking of starting a new business catering to affluent consumers, I recommend you take the 10 minutes necessary to increase your knowledge. The article may validate or refute some of your perspective, but I can assure you that it covers a lot of ground.
I also recommend you read “To Market or not to Market? The No-Marketing Approach“. I read the following lines and couldn’t stop because it’s one of the best luxe conceptualizations I have come across:
We can live without luxury, and we are consciously aware that when we buy it we are spending our money on something we don’t need. So why, in an age of financial instability and austerity measures, is luxury spending on the rise? The decision to purchase luxury good is closely tied to the importance of freedom – freedom of choice, or the freedom to spend our money as we wish.
– Dr. Isaac Mostovicz, consulting academic
30-day Challenge – Day 27
I’m not much of a sports fan, but I couldn’t help but notice recent stories about the former Houston Rockets star, Yao Ming, releasing a line of luxury wines in his native China. Continue reading
30-day Challenge – Day 26
There are a lot of words and phrases to describe the typical luxury consumer. You could use: wealthy, affluent, moneyed, well off, well-to-do, prosperous, opulent, well-heeled, and a bunch of other colorful words. Though today’s luxe buyers can be segmented into different income and wealth categories, we have usually characterized luxury with the most affluent segments of society.
In my post entitled, The Pulse of Luxury, I discussed the definition of “affluent”: those earning incomes of $100,000 or more. For the longest time (or as long as I’ve been around – not too long), much of the literature has considered $100,000 as the “rich” threshold. Well, if you read that post, you will remember that I raised a question as to whether we need to keep using that description because it does not seem to take inflation into consideration or consumer sentiment. Continue reading
30-day Challenge – Day 25
There is a well known adage about business success in relation to a customer’s experience:
A happy customer tells one friend, but an unhappy one tells everybody
Today, I write as both a happy and unhappy customer with experiences in the same product category, from two different brands. More importantly this post is so realistic, it serves as a practical case study on how to deliver the best customer experience possible – whether you are in the luxury, mid, or low product/service segments. Today’s post is about restaurants, and based on the title of this blog, I’m talking about fine dining. I’ll talk about two specific fine dining experiences I had on Sunday (12/11/11), while taking my darling wife on a day of dedicated DSE (dining, shopping, and entertainment) in the Williamsburg, VA area. Continue reading
30-day Challenge – Day 21
If you are an affluent consumer earning more than $100,000 in annual income, then the recent report by Bain & Company on diamond prices should worry you. If you make upwards of $250,000 a year, then you shouldn’t be as perturbed because you will not be greatly affected by the forecasted jump in diamond prices.
The global consulting firm has put out a report estimating that diamond demand will grow at a 6% CAGR over the next decade. The company believes that as we approach 2020, diamond supply will not be able to keep up with demand due in part to the growing economies of China and India. Those markets alone are estimated to push diamond demand at a CAGR of 6.6% in diamond volume alone. While demand is estimated to grow, diamond supplies are only expected to grow by 3% (CAGR) in volume. Continue reading