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Here’s What Younger Consumers Value When it Comes to Luxury

Fast fashion hasn’t hampered younger consumers’ appetite for luxury, new NPD Group research suggests.

Millennial and Gen Z consumers own an average of nine luxury pieces of apparel, footwear and accessories, according to a report released Monday by the NPD Group and Stylitics. Luxury hasn’t lost its luster with this group of shoppers—but they are shopping differently than older generations.

More than half of the survey’s respondents said they favor the “convenience and extensive browsing ability” provided by online shopping, while a third said they also appreciate the in-store experience of perusal and purchase.

“The value of a luxury product isn’t lost on millennials or Gen Z, just the opposite,” said Marshal Cohen, a chief industry advisor for NPD. “The younger luxury consumer demands the quality and cache expected from luxury items, but they also expect the shopping variety that allows them to find something unique.”

The criteria that millennial and Gen Z consumers look for when making a luxury purchase decision includes whether a brand is highly-coveted or prestigious, the quality of the product, the product’s distinctiveness, and whether the style is timeless, according to the report. And a good amount of research and planning goes into these purchase decisions, the report suggests. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said their favorite luxury purchase had been planned in advance, and that they knew where they were going to purchase it.

With seemingly limitless options of where to buy and how, younger consumers display an affinity for pure-play websites and department stores. While many ultimately buy online, in-store browsing influenced more shoppers in their latest luxury purchase decision than did any other factor. Even needing an item for a special occasion or upcoming event didn’t inspire a purchase the same way seeing and feeling a luxury item in person did.

Heritage luxury brands are recognizing the need to reach younger audiences using different tactics than what they’ve relied on to maintain favor with their older, wealthier core consumers. An increased focus on e-commerce as well as elevated experiences at retail could be the way forward.

“The multi-platform shopping experience has become as important in the luxury market as it is for retail in general,” Cohen explained. “The luxury shopping experience is no longer an ultra-exclusive one, it’s now about experiencing the options and brands through mobile apps and inviting in-store environments.”