France’s hold on the luxury consumer’s mindset is assured for the foreseeable future, says a new report by Ifop-sociovision for French luxury association Comité Colbert. But there are also challenges to address, including changing consumption habits, social networks as a key source of influence and CSR issues.
In luxury’s key markets — China, the US and France — the health crisis has reinforced the desire for French luxury among its core clientele. This is the key lesson from recently published study French Luxury, a Dependable Asset for Tomorrow’s World, by Ifop-sociovision for France’s Comité Colbert, which polled the 20% highest incomes across the three markets.
In the new panorama taking shape, France remains the country that best embodies luxury (for 64% of Chinese polled, 41% of Americans and 76% of the French), pulling out ahead of Italy. This attractiveness is reflected in consumer consumption patterns: nearly half of those surveyed say they regularly buy French luxury products, while nearly 40% do so occasionally.
By category, the fashion/jewelry/beauty trilogy dominates those most associated with French luxury. Fragrance comes out on top in the US and China, while among French consumers, fashion and couture takes the lead.
Keys to French attractiveness: culture, creativity & quality
French luxury is "the reflection of an art de vivre that makes consumers dream” and is characterized by “elegance and romanticism”. Beyond this common base, there are some cultural nuances. French consumers perceive French luxury as a “symbol of excellence" (34%) and "tradition" (31%), while Americans appreciate its "excellence" and see French luxury as a "pleasure of modern times” (26%). For Chinese consumers, meanwhile, it equates with "creativity" (27%), "aesthetics" (25%) and "freedom" (21%).
Last but not least, French expertise is highly valued. Made in France is reassuring to the luxury consumer and above all, a guarantee: for 84% of those surveyed (and for 90% of the Chinese and 81% of both French and Americans), luxury products made in France are of superior quality. In Asia, as in the US, France is considered the cradle of major luxury houses, but also that of small designers and independent craftsmen. Yet consumers still see "big brands" as the symbol of luxury.
French luxury’s 3 post-covid challenges
Despite this reassuring data, France’s luxury sector has considerable challenges to address in the coming months and years.
- New consumption habits: Consumers are changing how they buy luxury, as illustrated by the rise of second-hand goods in the sector: 26% of respondents say purchase them often and 35% from time to time. Second-hand shopping is a regular practice among Americans (39%), followed by the Chinese (23%) and the French (20%). Renting luxury goods is also gaining ground: 39% of Americans say they often do so.
- The power of social networks and the race for influence. While the retail store continues to play a dominant role in France’s luxury sphere, social networks are increasingly in the lead outside of the country when it comes to informing and influencing purchase decisions. Unsurprisingly, social networks rank first in this respect in the US and China.
- The social responsibility challenge. French brands should be exemplary when it comes to CSR. Indeed, for 85% of respondents, the luxury sector must set an example when it comes to issues such as production methods and fighting against waste, to name just a few. Some 37% of Chinese respondents believe that "responsibility" should come before innovation (29%) or even excellence (26%), when it comes to defining French luxury over the next five years.
For 85% of consumers polled, luxury isn't just about pleasure, it's also a "good long-term investment". Some 90% of Chinese luxury shoppers agreed with this statement, compared to 88% of Americans and 77% of French consumers. These figures bode well for the future!