If you’ve looked around the your favorite department store in the past couple seasons and felt like everything there, from itty bitty micro bags to toy-like bag charms, was designed for kids, there’s a good reason for it: luxury brands are looking to younger consumers with lower incomes to bolster sales.

Brands are worried that retail sales aren’t growing, so they’re being forced to look outside the bounds of their traditional customers, who are older and higher-earning than the new consumer class of HENRYs (High Earning Not Rich Yet) they hope to grow, who are under the age of 44, according to Luxury Daily, and make between $100,000 and $250,000 as a household. They’re only 18% of consumers, but they make up 40% off mass market spending.

Changing or broadening their consumer bases means that luxury brands need to adjust what kinds of products they offer, naturally. “Under 44” is a demographic group that includes a lot of young professionals with no kids, and they’re more likely to want products that might seem silly or impractical to an older consumer with a more traditional family life and a more classical idea of what a product needs to be in order to be luxurious. That’s even more true for accessories; lower-earning consumers are more likely to see a high-end bag or pair of shoes as a reasonable splurge than an evening gown.

We’re all getting older, of course, and luxury brands are betting that some of the current-day HENRYs will turn into the ultra-affluent consumers who have been their bread and butter all along; that makes the fight to earn shoppers’ loyalty while they’re young even more high-stakes. So the next time you see a bag that baffles you, remember: brands are playing the long game.

[The Les Petits Joueurs bag above is available via Shopbop for $865.]

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • The young are always with us and may well aspire to own the latest “It” bag but financial pressures mean that their peak spending will always be delayed. An interesting phenomenon that seems to be catching on is services like “Rent The Runway” which allows the impecunious to sample the wares that would normally be the perquisite of the Rich.

  • kloeF

    Great article!

  • FashionableLena

    Sounds good in theory, but most in the 22-35 age bracket are really saving to buy the bags or going the secondhand market. At that age, you’re trying to establish yourself financially, getting on your feet, and paying back student loans, if you have them. Some are choosing to go to graduate, medical, or law school. Some are getting married, having families, and/or buying houses/cars. All of those things take away from expendable cash. It usually takes one 5-10 years after graduation just to get your head above water.
    Now that my kids are older, I can now splurge more, but I’m in my 40s. Both of my cars are paid for. Because we move around ever so often, we are not tied to a house and all that comes with it.
    I get that the luxury brands are trying to reach the younger demographic, but the money is still in the 40+ age bracket. It seems that a lot of design houses are forgetting that.

    • Sparky

      Maybe they are targeting children of wealthy families. I’m 50+ and can only afford these products now. When I was in my 20’s buying a SportSac was a luxury.

      • Lynnie

        They are. They’re the ones with the disposable income to alieve some of the problems and worries Lena talks about, and still buy some of the Fendi charms. I also find that a lot of aspiring fashionistas will look at fast fashion, or contemporary brands to get the look (especially if it’s for something cute, but not really necessary.)

    • Mounandback

      You are reasoning with the US market in mind, whereas elsewhere, the HENRYs are not that burdened with debt.

  • Canuck65

    I was surprised when I started reading the article because I thought it would be about a much younger target audience e.g. 20 to 30 year old market not the under 44. market. Seems to me there can be huge taste differences as well income differences between a 24 year old, a 34 year old and a 44 year old. Nevertheless, I think that companies have been doing this for years and it seems to be working. I turned 50 this year. I come from a very middle class background and never new anything about designers until my early 30s. The interesting thing is that I went to a university where most students came from very privileged backgrounds and I don’t remember them carrying designer bags at school for example even though I’m sure they could afford it. Now fast forward, some 25 years later and I see young women all the time at work, on the streets; going to school (I live near 2 major universities) carrying designer handbags and wearing designer shoes – designer accessories seem to be the key items. Things have definitely changed.

    • like Cindy implied I am stunned that any body can make $5241 in one month on the computer. try this website on `my` `prof1le`

      *yyyyyyyy

  • Pearlacces.com

    Good to share. Good article.

  • Daniel Wong

    i think people are forgetting the white elephant in the room – so many young people these days are living on CREDIT CARD debt just to own that bag or whatever but having said that these poms poms or micro bags whatever arent cheap either….if you say diffusion lines like MBMJ maybe….

  • crescent

    The bucket bag pic above looks like it’s targetting 20 year olds. As a 32 year old woman, it doesn’t entice me one bit.