2022 was a strong year, 2023 has seen some ups and downs.

A year ago, Marvin Siebert, Partner and luxury goods expert, wrote about the trends and issues that will occupy the luxury industry in the coming years. Now he discusses what has happened since then.

What are the growth drivers and challenges with which companies in the industry will have to deal?

Unlike the retail industry in general, luxury goods suppliers still have a reason to celebrate, as the global luxury market is growing. In 2022, sales reached €345 billion, an increase of 19% over the previous year. China remains the world’s largest luxury market. In 2022, it accounted for around 20% of global luxury goods sales (around €59 billion).1

Growth drivers for the global luxury market include:

Large luxury brands dominate the market

In 2022, LVMH, Hermès, and Cartier parent Richemont, in particular, gained market share. They accounted for three quarters of additional sales. The reasons for their growth were: As owners of some of the world's best-known and most coveted luxury brands, they have strong brand positions and reach a large customer base in over 100 countries. They are innovative and invest in new products, technologies, and services to meet customer needs. It is likely that they will continue to strengthen their market position in the coming years.

Where there is light, there is shadow - inflation

With its direct impact on consumer purchasing power, inflation is the biggest challenge facing luxury goods companies. Experts expect it to remain high in the coming years, leading to a slowdown in growth.1, 4, 5 Historically, the luxury goods market has grown by an average of approximately 7% per year. Experts are currently forecasting a growth of 3.3% per year.5

The super-rich are less vulnerable to inflation than the general population. Analysts estimate that inflation will slow the growth of the global luxury goods market by 1% to 2% in 2023. Luxury brands for the upper middle class are expected to be hit harder (2% to 3%) than those for the super-rich (1% to 2%).3, 1 Therefore, the ability to pass on price increases remains a critical success factor.

Upper middle class vs. super-rich market: status quo and outlook

Around 1.8 billion people worldwide belong to the upper middle class (approximately 25% of the world’s population). The number of super-rich people is about 65 million. In 2022, these two groups accounted for 35% of the global luxury market.1, 3

The upper middle class has considerable growth potential as it is larger than the super-rich group and will continue to grow significantly in the future, especially in emerging markets. They also tend to be younger and more dynamic than the super-rich, making them more likely to follow new trends and try new luxury brands. However, they are more vulnerable to inflation, so growth will largely depend on whether inflation continues to rise. In addition, competition in this market is likely to increase as more brands try to meet the needs of this large target group.

Online sales' growing importance in the luxury market

E-commerce is also playing an increasingly important role in the luxury market. The share of the online luxury market was 21% in 2022.1 Many luxury brands sold their products directly to customers through their own websites or apps. As a result, monobrand online stores, in particular, continued to gain share. However, luxury online retailers, such as Mytheresa and Farfetch, are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the D2C sector. Despite a successful fiscal year in 2022, with revenue of around €690 million and EBITDA of around €66 million, Mytheresa had to significantly revise its 2023 forecast revenue (€755 million - €800 million) and EBITDA (€68 million - €76 million) in July (revenue: €750 million - €765 million, EBITDA: €34 million - €43 million). UK online retailer Farfetch also notably lowered its own forecast for 2023 after a disappointing Q2 in August.6 In addition to increasing competition in D2C, online platforms are also affected by inflation, geopolitical tensions, and supply chain disruptions.

Changing go-to-market strategies and marketing

Their go-to-market strategies, with a greater focus on online retailing and direct sales, are also changing the marketing of luxury brands. Personalization is becoming increasingly important to build customer loyalty. In addition, social media, influencer marketing, and digital advertising are key components of marketing strategies, especially when targeting Generation Z consumers. This includes, for example, the menswear show by Pharrell Williams and Louis Vuitton. This major event brought the luxury group an audience of billions (1.1 billion views).

As a result, the marketing budgets of the major players have changed significantly, both in terms of distribution and size. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, luxury brands’ marketing expenditures amounted to around $100 billion in 2022. Digital channels accounted for 40% of this.5, 1 Kering invested 77% of its marketing budget in online channels (€2.7 billion), while LVMH invested 70% (€6.7 billion). In addition, both increased their total marketing budgets significantly, with Kering increasing its budget by as much as 50% over the previous year. Hermès is an exception. The French family business has kept its marketing budget fairly stable in recent years. In 2022, it amounted to €1.6 billion, an increase of 5% over the previous year. Unlike the aforementioned competitors, Hermès spends the largest share (2022: €1.2 billion) on traditional channels such as print advertising and TV.

In addition to the shift to digital channels, major luxury brands’ marketing expenditure has also changed in terms of content. Luxury brands are increasingly focusing on content that revolves around their customers’ values and lifestyles. Another trend is increasing diversification. Luxury brands are offering new products, such as beauty and lifestyle products, in addition to their usual assortment (e.g., leather goods, jewelry, and fashion). This diversification helps them reach new target groups and accelerate market growth. They are also increasingly offering personalized products and services to their customers.

AI plays an increasingly important role in the luxury market

Luxury brands are increasingly using AI technologies to improve efficiency, enhance the customer experience, and develop new products and services. The applications go far beyond chatbots, personalized recommendations, and offers. Customers can now experience new worlds (e.g., Metaverse), VR factory tours (e.g., Luis Vuitton), styling apps (e.g., Hermès), and personal stylist robots (e.g., Gucci).

Luxury brands are facing increasing challenges. The market is changing, consumer habits are changing, and competition is increasing. It is essential to find new ways of maintaining customer loyalty in order to succeed. Two key words are particularly important: experience and hospitality. Luxury brands need to offer their customers a unique and memorable experience. This can be achieved through a combination of craftsmanship, world-class customer service, and a memorable engaging environment.

The most critical success factor for luxury brands is attracting and retaining talent. Only those who develop the right recruitment strategies and focus on employee retention will be able to successfully manage the transformation process. Despite the challenges, the growth prospects for the global luxury market are positive. we look forward to helping you find and select the right leaders.

1 Bain & Company-Altagamma „Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study 2022” (June 2023)

McKinsey & Company Global Institute (2022)

3 McKinsey & Company The Future of Luxury: 2025 and Beyond(May 2023)

4 McKinsey & Company „Luxury Goods in the Age of Inflation” (July 2023)

5 Boston Consulting Group „The State of the Global Luxury Market 2023” (July 2023)

6 Press Releases of Mytheresa Group and Farfetch Limited (2023)

"Intelligent decision-making entails knowing what tool to use for what problem." 

Gerd Gigerenzer

There is no such thing as the best decision-making strategy or approach that can be used in every situation.
Every decision-making strategy needs to be adapted to the environment in which it is used.

So, what to do?

Context matters.

First of all, we should identify what kind of environment we are in. If we know all the possible alternatives, their probabilities and possible consequences, we are in the world of risk and can determine the optimal strategy.

If individual components are unknown, we are in the world of uncertainty (i.e., 90% of the time). Calculating the best strategy is impossible. We must find individual solutions to the problem.

In doing so, let us be guided by this trinity of steps to take in uncertain situations:

Making good decisions, knowing what the future holds:

Making good decisions, not knowing what the future holds:

Structures and processes to consciously deal with uncertainty:

Innovation requires a constructive risk-taking culture:

Marvin Siebert
Partner, Germany

The path to a 'New Work'

For most employees, home office means having flexibility and freedom and many are reluctant to give these up. However, if studies by the Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim (ZEW)* are to be believed, they don't have to. Many companies plan to stick with the home office arrangements beyond Corona. In 2020, 64% of companies in the information economy wanted to continue to allow working from home at least one day per week. In 2021, it was already 74 %.

Leadership is becoming much more demanding

The fact is that in the last couple of years, many employees were allowed to work from home for the first time - and it was also a new experience for many supervisors. If it now becomes the rule that employees are predominantly at home, this also requires a rethink in terms of leadership. Leadership, already an often underestimated management discipline, becomes even more demanding.  Without the chance encounters in the corridor and the short chat at the coffee machine, supervisors will have to invest more time in the future to stay in touch with their employees. Keeping this connection, even over distance, continuing to provide guidance and coaching requires a high degree of empathy. This is a quality that is much more in demand in Executive Search today than it was before the pandemic.

'New Work' means rethinking work

The much-used buzzword "New Work" tries to give a home to the megatrends in the world of work such as digitalisation, work-life balance, globalisation, etc. It is also a way of thinking about work in a new way. Those who understand how complex the topic is are rethinking work: starting with recruiting and training new employees, to leadership and employee retention. Employer benefits related to the office are losing importance - and also attraction.

What connects employees of a company, how do they become a team?

A practised corporate and leadership culture, shared values and work that is defined by the value delivered are becoming more important than ever. At the same time, the boundaries between work and private life are becoming increasingly indistinct. The risk of being overwhelmed, of restlessness is increasing, because work is omnipresent with the increase in home offices. This is yet another argument for the importance of empathic leadership.

Motivation and willingness to perform - the inseparable partners

Then as now, motivation and willingness to perform are closely linked. Employees want recognition for their performance. Company leaders have to ask themselves: How is it currently working in my organisation? How much room is there for new ideas? What about the culture of error? How regularly does exchange take place between managers and employees? Companies that see the current situation as an opportunity to take a fundamentally new look at the topic of leadership and to set fresh impulses in the design of their working and organisational world will benefit from this in the long term.

A plea for personal contact

Despite all the possibilities offered by new digital media today, I am convinced that inspiring leadership distinguished by empathy cannot do entirely without personal contact. For me, this is not a question of an old or new economy, or of trust and mistrust. It is therefore understandable that many companies specify at least one or two days of presence in the office.

Decisions in favour of a higher proportion of home office are mostly CFO-driven. Some companies have used the absence of employees due to the pandemic to sell office space. Such cost-driven decisions may be good for companies in the short term, but not in the medium to long term.

Motivation boost Corona pandemic?

In May 2020, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) surveyed 500 companies from various sectors on the topic of working in the corona pandemic**. Around 70 % of the participants stated that they had largely switched to home office. Half assessed the performance of their employees to have remained the same during this time - 30% even recorded an increase in productivity. Decreased productivity mostly resulted from the reduction of working time accounts, short-time work, etc.

The study results also show what a strong impulse the Corona crisis gave to develop innovative solutions together - to overcome an existentially threatening situation together.

How long will this last?

When will motivation also decline at the home workplace and with it productivity and efficiency? To prevent this, leaders must now build up and expand their virtual leadership skills and find the right mix in delegation, team organisation, personal responsibility and duty of care. The experiences of the last few months are too important not to be used systematically.

*Source: "Home office in times of Corona", Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim (ZEW).

**Source: "Working in the Corona Pandemic - Towards the New Normal", Fraunhofer IAO in cooperation with the German Society for Human Resource Management DGFP e.V.

Matthias Zühlke, Partner
Hamburg, Germany 

Thorsten Marquardt has joined Friisberg & Partners International in Germany.

Thorsten has extensive knowledge of the international energy industry from more than 20 years in various management and executive functions in BP, Fortum and E.ON. Before he joined Friisberg in Germany he worked as Director of Innovation at s.Oliver and Managing Director in MediaMarktSaturn’s Retailtech Hub.

In addition to working with companies in the energy sector Thorsten also works with and across industries in digital business. He focuses on senior executive recruitment for publicly as well as privately owned customers, private equity firms and family businesses as well as start-ups. He advises the organizations and their boards along the entire value chain upstream, midstream and downstream in creating and strengthening effective top executive leadership teams who manage the sector-coupled energy transformation and digitization.

Thorsten is based in Munich. He is a passionate football fan and loves the mountains, where he hikes, bikes and skis.

Meltem Ay joins Friisberg & Partners International with over thirteen years of experience in various fields of Executive Search. In recent years she has been primarily focused on Financial Services.

Meltem has an excellent background and significant expertise as both a recruiter and manager. She has worked with national and international clients ranging from medium-sized businesses to global companies in Financial Services, and also in industrial markets.

Prior to joining Friisberg & Partners, Meltem Ay was a Principal / Client Partner and a key Member of the Global Financial Services practice of another highly-respected international executive search firm, and spent the preceding ten years as a successful consultant with various other international search firms.

Well, we had an interesting summer from a business perspective in Hungary.

Many of our assignments were stopped, or put on hold and obviously not much new business landed on our desks. We had lost half of our expected business by May - comparing it to the volume we had in H1 2019.

Over the past 6 months we had many Teams meetings with our Friisberg colleagues, globally. I spoke many times with my friend and colleague, Alexander Matthies (Friisberg Germany) about the trends impacting us in Hungary, the similar trends affecting his business in Germany and yet how he continued to be so successful – seemingly Covid proof.

He shared Friisberg Germany’s strategy designed to keep their 2020 revenue plans alive - or even exceed them.  In all honesty his advice sounded a little at odds with my own instincts:

I was astonished!

Could it be that simple?

Then I thought about how much it would cost if we simply waited passively for the pandemic to be over. The answer was indeed simple: if we waited, it would cost us a lot.

So, we actively adopted Alexander’s advice and it resulted in several new mandates. Then he called us with two cross-border Searches which we quickly and successfully delivered. Now, we are currently meeting prospective consultants in Budapest to further enhance our team.

Our existing clients have increasingly turned to us during this crisis. We are objectively able to highlight the weaknesses within their organisations by suggesting they talk openly with us as a trusted partner. By sharing ideas and openly discussing future decisions with trusted friends and colleagues, we can all adopt new and successful strategies.

We decided to shape our future instead of simply reacting to it.

We can all shape our futures.

Everyone at Friisberg joins in congratulating our German Partners on their latest in a string of awards.

GetAhead Executive Search would like to thank all their clients for the positive feedback which led to their appointment as "TOP CONSULTANT 2020".

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