Experts Offer Advice on Tapping the Luxury Market

NEW YORK, NY - While the economy will always have its ups and downs, kitchen and bath designers who specialize in the luxury market will always find plenty of opportunities for creating projects that are both creatively challenging and highly profitable.

This is especially true at the ultra-high end, where price seems to be no object, and the wealthiest of consumers in the U.S. and abroad continue to “buy, buy, buy” despite what happens in the world.

That’s why, according to panelists at The Luxury Home Alliance’s “Building Luxury Brands for Home” presentation last month, it’s key for kitchen and bath dealers and designers to be able to tap the luxury market, grab the attention of the most affluent consumers, market to their desires and educate them about how they’re the ones who can turn their dream design into reality.

This trio of luxury experts – Beverly Hills, CA-based designer Barclay Butera, ASID; Houston, TX-based designer William W. Stubbs, IIDA; and Liz Conover, executive director of merchandising and marketing for specialty retailer Takashimaya New York – explored ways that designers can reach wealthy clients, build long-term relationships with them and grow their luxury brands.

The event was held at Takashimaya New York’s Tea Room, and sponsored by the Alliance. Stephen Nobel, Alliance co-founder and CEO, moderated the panel. Takashimaya New York President Kenji Yoshikawa gave the opening remarks.

The Luxury Market

It’s no surprise that kitchens and baths have become more upscale as consumers continue to strive for a certain level of luxury, convenience and comfort. But Stubbs, Conover and Butera are not talking about the high end. They’re referring to the multi-millionaires who have posh residences and vacation homes around the world.

“The Baby Boomer market is full of people who, because of the right investments, have amassed millions of dollars by the time they hit retirement age,” asserts Stubbs, president of William W. Stubbs and Associates, an international interior design firm. He’s also the author of I Hate Red, You’re Fired! The Colorful Life of an Interior Designer, and A Moment of Luxury: Discovering the Beauty Around You, and this fall he’s launching a new PBS TV series entitled, A Moment of Luxury.

“We’re seeing this growing segment continue to rise no matter what’s going on in the world, and we need to recognize it no matter what. It’s not capitalism; it’s more about the fact that if we don’t recognize it, it will go somewhere else,” observes Butera, president and CEO of Barclay Butera Inc.

“I’ve learned the best thing about selling merchandise to the top 1% or .5% in the world that controls
$1 trillion worth of purchases is that they’re always buying something new. So it’s kind of an unending supply if you form a relationship with those customers,” notes Conover.

‘Deluxe’ Advice

So what are the most effective ways to tap this market? The panelists offer the following suggestions:

  • Conover suggests that design professionals form a lasting relationship with their high-end clients by respecting their privacy, offering unique merchandise and unobtrusive, yet helpful customer service.
  • Butera exhorts designers to figure out what their clients need, and what their tastes are. Make these clients feel that the level of luxury they want is attainable, and that it can be interpreted to suit their own unique tastes. Team up with other luxury brands to sponsor charity events.
  • Stubbs advises kitchen and bath designers to recognize that luxury is about a lifestyle, not about products anymore. He says, “You’re selling a lifestyle. And, remember, people are willing to pay for luxury. Building relationships with clients who are young can yield a lifetime of work as they accrue wealth.”

For more about this topic, log onto to the Kitchen & Bath Confidential blog.

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