The last time we mentioned Louis Vuitton’s exclusivity problem, you guys had a lot to say, and much of it was demonstrative of the challenges that Vuitton faces going forward – how does a company whose incredibly recognizable logo bags have become ubiquitous maintain its air of exclusivity for top-tier customers? And if those top-tier customers leave, will customers at the lower tiers go looking for their little slice of luxury elsewhere? Is this a problem that Louis Vuitton has waited too long to fix? Based on the double-digit dip that the company’s value took last year, things could be better at LVMH’s flagship brand.
The Millward Brown BrandZ Top 100 (which sounds made up, but is not) ranks the 100 most valuable luxury companies in the world every year based on their total value, and although Louis Vuitton is still at the top of that list, the brand is down 12% year on year. Given that Louis Vuitton acknowledges it has an image problem, it’s probably not an unexpected dip, but worrisome all the same for a conglomerate with a handbag brand as its backbone. Meanwhile, competitors Prada and Gucci surged 63% and 48%, respectively. According to Business of Fashion, the stark difference in the performance of the three brands can be pinned on the fact that Gucci and Prada “are better managing the trade-off between exclusivity and affordability.”
The performance of Gucci in particular might show a way forward for Louis Vuitton – the company has put increased emphasis on its fine leather and exotic offerings in recent years, including some of the most expensive pieces available on the mass market today, while still offering plenty of recognizable, logo-covered canvas handbags and accessories for entry-level customers. Vuitton’s strategy includes both expanding its upper-echelon offerings and increasing prices across the board to discourage “downmarket” customers from coming on board and scaring away the apparently very sensitive rich folks, and only time will tell if it’s too little, too late.
In the meantime, tell us – the top four luxury brands are Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci and Prada, in that order. If you had to bet on one long-term, which would it be?