The notion can seem contrary to the word “luxury.” In the common perception, luxury goods like Chanel perfumes and Louis Vuitton bags are things that are not marketed towards the middle class. In some cases, they may not even be aimed towards most of the upper class, but are products marketed towards the elite among the elite. However, to survive in the event of an economic downturn, some companies have started to market their products to more than just the elite and rich that they normally cater to. Some companies, in an effort to keep their revenues, have expanded their markets and attempted to redefine what markets “luxury goods” cater to.
One thing that has been happening is how the “high end” and “low end” have started to meld. Target, a retail chain that caters to the average person, bought up nearly all of the advertising space in high-class magazine The New Yorker. Wal-Mart did the same to fashion magazine Vogue. The result is that luxury goods are starting to at least be seen as more accessible to some social strata, even during a difficult time. For many luxury companies, the first thing they needed to learn to survive this shift is to figure out how to retain what makes them special, unique, and difficult to attain. Otherwise, what was once a luxury goods provider becomes just another competitor in their market.
The famous jeweler Tiffany’s is one of many companies that have taken up the notion of catering to a wider group. The wide range of silver jewelry available in their stores has increased the number of customers coming in, helping boost business for the shop famous for its white ribbons and turquoise boxes. Other companies are starting to adopt similar tactics, offering products that still have the same care and quality, but can appeal to a much wider market. Coach, known for leather bags that can go upwards of $1,000 in price, has started to sell ones that are much lower in cost while still selling the bags that it built its reputation on.
There is the major concern of limited editions, however. A luxury goods provider that makes their products readily available to a large number of people may rake in the profits, but that might come at the cost of their business “identity.” If Lamborghini starts producing cars for the middle class, it stands to lose that intangible “something” that made their cars so attractive for their original market. Or who would want a Louis Vuitton handbag if the exact same thing was on everyone else’s shoulders? Limited editions are one way to address the problem, but there are some who question whether or not that is actually enough. Uniqueness and exclusivity has served the luxury business world well, after all.