Bain slashes global luxury goods sales forecasts

New data from Bain & Company shows global luxury goods sales will struggle to maintain growth, as the US-Sino trade war and other geopolitical events impact on consumer confidence.

In June, Bain said the personal luxury goods market was “on a tear” this year and would grow by between 6 per cent and 8 per cent at constant exchange rates to reach €276-281 billion. It said the market could reach €390 billion globally in sales by 2025.

But now, Bain has released a more tepid projection of €260 billion and a growth rate of 5 per cent this year.

It has pared back its 2025 projection of personal luxury goods sales to €320-365 billion, slashing €35 to €70 billion off its forecast in just five months.

And it cautioned that even this figure may be under threat saying “socio-political issues, commercial policies, and potential short-term soft recessions could make this road to growth a bumpy one in the short term”.

The Bain & Company Luxury Study was released in Milan in collaboration with Fondazione Altagamma, the Italian luxury goods manufacturers’ industry foundation.

In June, Bain said Mainland China is expected to account for the lion’s share of growth this year. “We forecast this market to grow by 20-22 per cent … Brands are learning how to cater to local consumers, often young and heavily influenced by social media.”

China kept close to its projections, rising 20 per cent, albeit with the year still not over.

“Chinese consumers are leading the positive growth trend around the world. Between 2015 and this year, their purchases in Mainland China contributed twice as much growth as their spending abroad. Their share of global spending has continued to rise (now estimated at 33 per cent of global luxury spend, up from 32 per cent in last year), while the share of Mainland China has also risen to 9 per cent (up from 8 per cent in last year). In Mainland China, luxury sales grew 18 per cent at current exchange rates to €23 billion (20 per cent at constant exchange rates), driven by rising demand rather than by price increases,” the report said.

Claudia D’Arpizio, a Bain partner and lead author of the study, said luxury purchases in Japan softened slightly this year, pushing brands to find new solutions to bring consumers back to stores. However, retail sales still grew at 3 per cent at current exchange rates to €22 billion. “Increased consumption from tourists in Japan is prompting brands to rethink their distribution models.”

Across the rest of Asia retail sales grew 7 per cent at current exchange rates to €39 billion, due to dynamic growth in South Korea, driven by strong local consumption. Brisk growth in other Asian countries – Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan – also contributed while Hong Kong and Macau benefitted from Chinese purchases.

Europe lagged in 2018 due to a strong Euro that impacted tourists’ purchasing power. Local consumption was positive overall, despite mixed country performance, helping to boost retail sales 1 per cent at current exchange rates to €84 billion.

The Americas grew 5 per cent at current exchange rates to €80 billion. “A positive US economy boosted disposable income and overall luxury spending from locals, even as brands remained wary of continued economic prosperity,” the report said. “However, the strong dollar impacted tourists’ spending from Asia and Latin America. Canada and Mexico were strong players in the region, while political uncertainties derailed Brazil’s performance.”

In other areas, there was nil growth, holding at €12 billion, mainly due to stagnation in Middle East brought on by a recent government spending restriction.

Luxury online

The retail channel grew 4 per cent this year, with three-quarters coming from like-for-like sales growth. Wholesale channels grew at only 1 per cent, brought down by high-end department stores still trying to recover, and a slow-down among specialty stores facing tough competition from online.

Luxury shopping online continued to accelerate this year compared with physical channels, growing 22 per cent versus 2017 to €27 billion.  The US market made up close to half of online sales – 44 per cent– but Asia is emerging as the new growth engine for luxury online, slightly ahead of Europe. Accessories remained the top category sold online, ahead of apparel; beauty and hard luxury (jewellery and watches) were both on the rise.

Brands are catching up to other online players, comprising 31 per cent of sales, compared to e-tailers (39 per cent) and retailers (30 per cent).

“New technologies are at once enriching the online and mobile shopping experiences, while potentially putting role of physical channels at risk,” said Federica Levato, a Bain partner and co-author of the study.

“The luxury store-opening path is slowing down, leading to channel consolidation in the future. Brands must therefore rethink their physical channels and evolve their role from point-of-sale to point-of-touch, and use new technology to enhance customers’ in-store experiences.”

Luxury consumers getting younger

The report concluded that younger generations are becoming increasingly more important luxury brands. This year, Generations Y and Z contributed 100 per cent of the total luxury market growth, compared with 85 per cent last year. Bain predicts Generation Z, which today comprises just 2 per cent of the market will account for 10 per cent of it in 2025.

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