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Physical Stores Still Matter to the “New Luxury” Consumer

If there is one thing the “new luxury” consumer wants more than Dad sneakers or logo emblazoned accessories, it may be a unique shopping experience.

Highsnobiety’s recent white paper, “The New Luxury,” reveals how young luxury consumers’ desire for experiences and community gives hope to the embattled physical retail channel.

Along with bucking traditional perceptions about what qualifies as luxury and favoring brands and collaborations that offer unusual products, Gen Z- and millennial-aged consumers are also creating their own shopping habits for big-ticket fashion items.

“Despite the perceived decline of physical retail and explosion of online shopping, as the global luxury goods market approaches $1 trillion, customers are buying more luxury than ever before,” Highsnobiety wrote.

And while 66 percent of the consumers aged 16-34 surveyed said they spent more money on fashion online than in-store over the last 12 months, Highsnobiety reported that physical stores “still represent a much more intimate experience of the brand and products than shopping online.”

The fact is, online shopping can’t quench consumers’ thirst for social shopping and discovery.

More than 80 percent of respondents said they shop in physical stores because they want to touch and feel the products. Sixty-seven percent said they go to stores to “experience a brand in real life.” Meanwhile, 57 percent of consumers said they consider going to physical stores as an activity shared with friends.

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That’s not to say the convenience of online shopping is lost with young consumers. The wide breadth of products available online and the ability to compare prices appeal to this savvy consumer segment. However, retail’s recipe for total success is a “blended retail experience,” according to the paper.

It’s a strategy that Highsnobiety tried out for itself with Barneys New York in 2017 for the launch of thedrop@barneys, an experience that was tailor-made for the next generation of luxury shoppers. The two-day event in New York City featured 30 exclusive capsule collections and product drops, 80-plus brands and appearances from designers and influencers, including Virgil Abloh of Off-White, Faith Connexion and more.

Highsnobiety reported that over 12,000 attendees congregated at the store, “turning it into a hub for commerce and culture, allowing consumers to interact with influencers and designers they were familiar with online.”

Barneys New York also saw a 30 percent sales increase during the event. But perhaps more importantly for the store’s long-term health, the experiential event introduced Barneys to a new generation of consumers. Half of the attendees were young consumers who had never visited Barneys before, Highsnobiety reported. And a second event was held in Los Angeles in 2018 with a similar degree of success.

“It wasn’t purely about commerce, it was more about effectively creating an authentic community-building experience at the uptown institution,” Highsnobiety wrote.