Young Europeans are buying luxury—but not necessarily at full price. Four stats tell the story…
YPulse has long tracked how Millennials are redefining the definition of luxury with both their behavior and attitudes toward high-end goods—and how Gen Z has followed in their footsteps. Many have feared that these generations would kill luxury altogether, and the financial toll of the pandemic didn’t help matters at all. Global luxury sales dropped 23% in 2020 for a loss of €64 billion ($79 billion), the market’s largest-ever fall and the first decline since 2009. But as life (and employment) begins to normalize for Gen Z and Millennials, they’re feeling better about spending money—including on luxury items. In fact, global sales of personal luxury goods in 2021 were 4% higher than in 2019, pre-pandemic, according to consultancy firm Bain & Company. While Europe’s market hasn’t fully bounced back, some of the region’s (and the industry’s) largest players have also pushed past 2019 levels, including LVMH, Hermes, and Kering, indicating not only a return to normal but an increased interest in luxury among its now-biggest market: Gen Z and Millennials.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the market hasn’t changed, and that brands don’t still need these generations in new ways, from buy now, pay later offerings to sustainability efforts to virtual fashion shows. And it’s working. Though YPulse’s recent WE luxury report found that the majority of young Europeans say that luxury is a feeling, not a thing, 66% also agree, “Luxury items are back in style.” Here are four stats that show how 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe are buying luxury now, and how they want to keep buying in the future:
Nearly three in five young Europeans have purchased a luxury item.
If you thought young consumers weren’t buying luxury, think again. Nearly three in five young Europeans have already purchased a luxury item, with clothing being the top type of product they’ve purchased. And though North America’s luxury market has overtaken Europe’s, more young Europeans report buying a luxury item than young North American consumers. What’s more, 30% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe also say they will care more about owning high-quality, expensive products in the future, meaning the market will likely continue to grow. As of now, European Millennials are +17pts more likely to have purchased a luxury item than Gen Z, which makes sense given their higher earning power. In fact, Millennials are expected to make up more than 50% of the luxury market by 2025, according to Statisa, as their spending power continues to dominate. And though “luxury” is often associated with high-fashion women’s clothes and bags, 63% of European males say they’ve purchased a luxury item compared to 54% of females.
Just under half have purchased a dupe.
Among those who haven’t purchased a luxury item, the top reason they cite is that they can’t afford it. But with so many young Europeans wanting to own luxury products, many have found workarounds to price barriers—and that includes dupes. Before the pandemic, dupes became a TikTok trend as Gen Z influencers shared ways to make designer lookalikes or how to find fakes on sites like Amazon or DHGate with their followers. And though luxury brands jumped on TikTok to try to become more accessible to Gen Z—and stymie the proliferation of knock-offs on the platform—many young consumers have continued to opt for dupes. Now, 47% of young Europeans have purchased a dupe, and nearly half agree with the statement, “The quality of dupe / fake luxury items makes me less likely to want to purchase a real luxury item.” Young females are more likely than males to have purchased a dupe—50% say they have compared to 44% of males—and they’re also more likely to say dupes are quality enough to keep them from buying the real thing. That said, however, many young Europeans would still prefer to own the real thing but at dupe prices. Which is why…
The majority want luxury brands to make some affordable items so more people can own them.
Despite the fact that the majority of young consumers define luxury as something not many people can have, 69% want luxury brands to lower the barrier to entry by creating some affordable items—and that’s even more true for young females, 74% of whom want affordable luxury. Indeed, accessibility has become crucial for luxury brands today as they try to attract conspicuous consumption-adverse Gen Z and Millennials, and many European heritage brands have gotten creative to lower their price points. High-end fashion brands have been infiltrating the metaverse for a while now to add a level of accessibility (at least through marketing if not price point) with Gucci, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and more creating digital fits wearable by young consumers’ avatars in video games and other virtual spaces. More recently, luxury brands have adopted the toy industry’s “mystery box” trend, where customers buy a package containing unknown products, offering Gen Z and Millennials a more affordable entry by introducing them to high-quality, curated wears at a lower price. Then there’s the #cheapestthing trend on TikTok, which sees users showcasing the “cheapest” products bought from brands like Chanel, Gucci, Prada, and Hermès, from lip gloss to keychains—and has racked up 4M views.
Nearly a third are interested in shopping luxury secondhand.
Beyond waiting for brands to make affordable products themselves, young Europeans are increasingly finding real-deal luxury products at discounted prices by shopping secondhand. Across the board, secondhand retail has boomed in recent years—and especially luxury, which 31% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say they’re interested in buying. Again, this is even higher among young females, 36% of whom express interest in secondhand luxury. According to the Statista Research Department, the luxury resale market is growing four times as fast as the primary luxury market at 12% a year versus 3%, and was estimated to be worth €28 billion in 2021. Meanwhile, CNBC reports that the secondhand luxury apparel and accessories market is projected to reach $51 billion by 2023. And while secondhand platforms such as ThredUp and the RealReal are raking in the majority of this luxury loot, brands themselves are exploring opportunities to resell (and rent) their own products: Prada recently announced that it’s looking into its own secondhand marketplace, Burberry has forayed into resale and rental in a partnership with My Wardrobe HQ, and Alexander McQueen teamed up with resale platform Vestiaire Collective for a buyback program, to name just a few. As young Europeans continue to crave a more inclusive luxury market, we can expect to see the resale market continue to boom—and see more luxury brands jumping on board to give these generations the high-end products they increasingly want.
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