Saks, displaying some optimism in an otherwise sluggish apparel environment, sees luxury consumers more inclined to shop in the near term.
The latest Saks Luxury Pulse quarterly survey found that 58 percent of the respondents plan to spend the same or more on luxury in the August through October period. That leaves 42 percent of those surveyed planning to spend less through October.
Still, the 58 percent spending the same or more on luxury goods is an increase from 53 percent in the prior Saks Luxury Pulse fielded in late April, and represents the first increase in luxury spending plans since the survey began tracking this in May 2022.
For its latest Luxury Pulse, Saks surveyed 1,836 luxury consumers, 18 and older, from July 20 to July 24. It includes those who shop the Saks website, the Saks Fifth Avenue stores, as well as other luxury retailers and brands.
“This is our sixth time with our Saks Luxury Pulse where we talk to about 2,000 consumers to understand how they’re feeling about the economy and how they’re thinking about shopping. We were pleased to see that luxury consumers are beginning to bounce back,” Emily Essner, chief marketing officer for Saks, the luxury e-commerce site, told WWD.
The greater the household income, the more likely they’ll spend more on luxury this fall. “Higher income shoppers, those household incomes of $200,000 or more, is where we’re starting to see overall improvement in how they’re thinking about luxury spending,” Essner added. She put the Saks core customer, on average, at having a household income of about $200,000.
Of the 58 percent, Saks did not break out what percent are spending more and what percent are spending the same. “We didn’t ask the question that way, because it becomes a matter of false precision,” Essner explained. “Consumers don’t really know exactly how much they spent today, so they’re not going to be able to predict [accurately their future spend],” she said.
“For at least the last couple of surveys we’ve done there has been a very interesting dichotomy, where our consumers largely feel good about their personal financial situation, and largely feel more pessimistic about the greater economic environment,” Essner observed.
The July Saks Pulse showed that, as macroeconomic headwinds persist, 68 percent of luxury consumers were optimistic about their personal financial situation, yet 55 percent were concerned about the overall economy. While optimism about respondents’ personal financial situation remained consistent with the prior survey (67 percent), concern toward the overall economy has improved by 5 percentage points compared to the prior survey. In the latest survey, “We saw more optimism about the overall economy, with 45 percent of respondents are optimistic, and that was 40 percent in April, when the prior survey was taken. There’s been less talk of a recession,” Essner said.
Asked whether luxury consumers’ shopping patterns are significantly affected by inflation, Essner replied, “With egg prices or gas prices, that’s not something that is impacting them. However, luxury price increases I would argue are somewhat separate from inflation, per se. Those are impacting our consumer and making them more conscious of value and looking for sale whenever possible.” Some price increases in luxury are inflation-based; others are more business-model based, she noted.
“What we hear from our consumers is that they’re absolutely willing to pay for something that is special, and exactly what they’re looking for. But it has to be exactly that right thing and feel that there’s value for the money that they’re spending.”
Saks also concluded from its survey that, overall, consumers are getting fashion inspiration most often from luxury retailers, especially about styling outfits for specific occasions, more so than looking to social media for fashion inspiration. Fifty-four percent of the Pulse respondents indicated they browse retailers online or in person; 41 percent look to social media, and 40 percent said they look to fashion journalism.
“That guidance and advice was very helpful, since we have a major strategy around curation on our site, in particular with a lot of our content providing specific use cases for products, making sure that our consumers understand what’s trending, and showing how to put it together in a way that’s really understandable for them,” Essner said. “So seeing that they’re really looking [first] to luxury retailers, and social media thereafter, for that sort of guidance, that was very helpful for us, and certainly helps us feel great about the strategy we have.”
Sixty-nine percent of the Pulse respondents indicated they explore the content on a retailers’ site, to learn about styling new trends, find style ideas before buying an item, and for fun.
Yet there are generational differences. Among the Millennials responding to the Pulse survey, both women and men said the top place they look for fashion inspiration is social media. Generation X and Baby Boomer women said fashion journalism was the top place they get fashion inspiration, whereas men of the same generations said browsing retailers online or in store was their top place for fashion inspiration.
“We are pleased to see the first increase in over a year in purchase intent across the luxury consumer continuum, an indication that core luxury consumers are starting to turn the corner,” Marc Metrick, Saks’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Although this core luxury consumer is typically the first to rebound from times of economic uncertainty, we remain committed to building meaningful relationships with the full continuum of luxury shoppers, especially those who are likely to become more loyal over time. As we look ahead, despite this positive inflection point in luxury consumer sentiment, we remain measured in our approach to navigating the rest of the year to ensure Saks is best positioned for long-term success.”
In his letter to vendors sent out earlier this month, Metrick wrote that at saks.com, gross merchandising value for the second quarter of 2023 fell 11 percent compared to 2022’s second quarter, though there was a two-year stacked growth of 24 percent and a 114 percent increase versus second-quarter 2019.
Saks’ next survey will relate to holiday spending intentions.
In other findings from the July Saks Pulse:
- Higher-income respondents are more optimistic about the economy with 48 percent of respondents with an income of $200,000 or more indicating such, up from 42 percent in the prior survey.
- 54 percent of total respondents who plan to spend less said they would be enticed by a sale or promotional event, consistent with the prior survey. Thirty-five said they would need to see improvement in the overall economy, down from 43 percent in the prior survey “reinforcing growing optimism about the economy among luxury consumers.”
- On travel, 74 percent of all respondents said they’re planning to or have already booked a trip in the near future and, of those, 72 percent said they plan to buy luxury items for their trips.
- Among respondents with $200,000 or higher incomes, 81 percent said they are planning to or have already booked a trip in the near future. Of those, 72 percent plan to buy luxury items for their trips.