Future Returns: Investing in the Global Luxury Industry
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Future Returns: Investing in the Global Luxury Industry

Why putting your money in luxury makes sense.

By Rob Csernyik
Wed, Apr 21, 2021 1:17pmGrey Clock 4 min

The global luxury industry has had a good run over much of the past decade and signs are pointing to continued strength despite a difficult stretch during the pandemic.

S&P’s Global Luxury Index has beaten the MSCI All Country World Index over the past five years by about 4.3%. It’s been a hotbed for M&A activity, including LVMH’s recent US$15.8 billion acquisition of Tiffany & Co. The sector has proven popular with investors from individuals through to private equity—a pre-pandemic Deloitte survey found 70% of respondents, most of whom were small-medium private equity funds were considering investing in a fashion and luxury asset.

Jessica Gerberi says structural growth themes in the industry have turned luxury stocks from a cyclical to secular growth opportunity.

Gerberi, a senior research analyst with Calamos Investments in Naperville, Ill., was positive on the industry before the pandemic, partly based on the resilience of luxury goods companies, some a century or two old. “Their resilience was just tested in such an unprecedented way with Covid, and Covid’s really been an accelerant for positive change in this industry,” she says.

Bain & Co. finds despite a contraction in the overall global luxury industry due to the pandemic, global online luxury sales grew almost 50%, to about US$59 billion, in 2020, compared to about US$39.7 the prior year. This sales channel is forecast to grow further, from an estimated 23% last year to more than 30% by 2025. Gerberi says the industry may not see a full recovery until 2022 or 2023, but the speedy adaptation to selling online undertaken by many companies offers a compelling reason to consider investing in luxury stocks.

“The strong getting stronger will likely continue to be a theme in this industry,” she says.

Besides the anticipated post-pandemic rebound, growth in emerging markets offers another compelling reason for the sector’s strength. One estimate anticipates the global middle class ballooning to 5.3 billion people by 2030, bringing about 2 billion up the economic ladder. This group is expected to splurge on luxury items, and the industry will reap the reward, particularly in China.

Due to these developments, Gerberi says in a post-Covid, normalized environment there could even be some upside to the industry’s approximate 5% annual growth rate. She shared three tips with Penta on how to invest in the global luxury industry.

Understand Different Exposures

Not all luxury stocks are equally exposed to different elements. For instance, some companies focus on a single brand while others have what Gerberi calls “natural diversification,” meaning multiple brands or that they operate in multiple categories.

“Some of these big luxury conglomerates have built their businesses upon M&A and acquiring new brands, which I think speaks to their ability to balance growing the equity and managing the heritage of their legacy brands,” she says. “But [they are] also keeping on top of current trends and being willing to take a risk on a brand that might not be fully in their wheelhouse.”

She mentions Moncler’s US$1.4 billion acquisition of Stone Island, which brought the down jacket maker together with a streetwear brand. Gerberi says these moves allow companies to tap into certain trends or companies growing at a faster rate than the overall luxury industry.

Geographical exposure comes into play as well. Much of the industry is listed in Europe rather than the U.S., for instance. And though the customer base is often considered from North American or European vantage points, luxury companies serve a diverse, global base of consumers beyond those regions. This means they’re impacted by much broader, global trends.

Embracing Digital Evolution

“Covid really accelerated the digital strategies that companies in the industry are pursuing,” Gerberi says. “And of course they came into the pandemic in varying degrees of development.” This follows other accelerations in online retail, which observers say advanced e-commerce sales and technology by several years during the pandemic.

This evolution is about more than simply having a robust e-commerce site, offering products for sale via third party or increasing the depth and breadth originally offered online. Gerberi says luxury brands have created new digital avenues to engage with their customers and build customer relationships including special sales events, setting up virtual showrooms—even biometric scanning to offer virtual beauty trials.

Investors should watch how companies have embraced this shift, as not all companies have seized the chance to innovate their digital platforms and complement their in-person shopping experiences. “That gap between the haves and have nots has widened,” Gerberi says.

China’s Growing Consumption

The growth of emerging market middle classes is a promising tailwind for luxury goods, Gerberi says. “But in the near term it likely wouldn’t be anywhere as meaningful as the continued growth of the Chinese consumer in this industry.”

In 2019, the Chinese consumer accounted for 35% of global luxury sales. That figure is estimated to rise to 50% by 2025. This may pose attractive investment opportunities in brands with less-established presences in China, offering room to expand their customer base there. Though China-based luxury brands are emerging, globally-recognised brands are expected to be the main driver of this consumption.

Gerberi expects “a good pipeline for luxury consumption” to continue, as China’s Gen Z population ages and gains more disposable income.

Factors like relatively quick economic bounce back from Covid, unemployment returning to pre-Covid levels, and a continued strong appetite for luxury goods bode well for continued sales growth. “All of those things continue to bode well for the outlook for the Chinese consumer with regards to luxury,” she says.

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 20, 2021


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To break the day-trading habit that cost him friendships and sleep, crypto fund manager Thomas Meenink first tried meditation and cycling. They proved no substitute for the high he got scrolling through investing forums, he said.

Instead, he took a digital breath. He installed software that imposed a 20-second delay whenever he tried to open CoinStats or Coinbase.

Twenty seconds might not seem like much, but feels excruciating in smartphone time, he said. As a result, he checks his accounts 60% less.

“I have to consciously make an effort to go look at stuff that I actually want to know instead of scrolling through feeds and endless conversations about stuff that is actually not very useful,” he said.

More people are adding friction to curb all types of impulsive behaviour. App-limiting services such as One Sec and Opal were originally designed to help users cut back on social-media scrolling.

Now, they are being put to personal-finance use by individuals and some banking and investing platforms. On One Sec, the number of customers using the app to add a delay to trading or banking apps more than quintupled between 2021 and 2022. Opal says roughly 5% of its 100,000 active users rely on the app to help spend less time on finance apps, and 22% use it to block shopping apps such as Amazon.com Inc.

Economic researchers and psychologists say introducing friction into more apps can help people act in their own best interests. Whether we are trading or scrolling social media, the impulsive, automatic decision-making parts of our brains tend to win out over our more measured critical thinking when we use our smartphones, said Ankit Kalda, a finance professor at Indiana University who has studied the impact of mobile trading apps on investor behaviour.

His 2021 study tracked the behaviour of investors on different platforms over seven years and found that experienced day traders made more frequent, riskier bets and generated worse returns when using a smartphone than when using a desktop trading tool.

Most financial-technology innovation over the past decade focused on reducing the friction of moving money around to enable faster and more seamless transactions. Apps such as Venmo made it easier to pay the babysitter or split a bill with friends, and digital brokerages such as Robinhood streamlined mobile trading of stocks and crypto.

These innovations often lead customers to trade or buy more to the benefit of investing and finance platforms. But now, some customers are finding ways to slow the process. Meanwhile, some companies are experimenting with ways to create speed bumps to protect users from their own worst instincts.

When investing app Stash launched retirement accounts for customers in 2017, its customer-service representatives were flooded with calls from panicked customers who moved quickly to open up IRAs without understanding there would be penalties for early withdrawals. Stash funded the accounts in milliseconds once a customer opted in, said co-founder Ed Robinson.

So to reduce the number of IRAs funded on impulse, the company added a fake loading page with additional education screens to extend the product’s onboarding process to about 20 seconds. The change led to lower call-centre volume and a higher rate of customers deciding to keep the accounts funded.

“It’s still relatively quick,” Mr. Robinson said, but those extra steps “allow your brain to catch up.”

Some big financial decisions such as applying for a mortgage or saving for retirement can benefit from these speed bumps, according to ReD Associates, a consulting firm that specialises in using anthropological research to inform design of financial products and other services. More companies are starting to realise they can actually improve customer experiences by slowing things down, said Mikkel Krenchel, a partner at the firm.

“This idea of looking for sustainable behaviour, as opposed to just maximal behaviour is probably the mind-set that firms will try to adopt,” he said.

Slowing down processing times can help build trust, said Chianoo Adrian, a managing director at Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America. When the money manager launched its online retirement checkup tool last year, customers were initially unsettled by how fast the website estimated their projected lifetime incomes.

“We got some feedback during our testing that individuals would say ‘Well, how did you know that already? Are you sure you took in all my responses?’ ” she said. The company found that the delay increased credibility with customers, she added.

For others, a delay might not be enough to break undesirable habits.

More people have been seeking treatment for day-trading addictions in recent years, said Lin Sternlicht, co-founder of Family Addiction Specialist, who has seen an increase in cases since the start of the pandemic.

“By the time individuals seek out professional help they are usually experiencing a crisis, and there is often pressure to seek help from a loved one,” she said.

She recommends people who believe they might have a day-trading problem unsubscribe from notifications and emails from related companies and change the color scheme on the trading apps to grayscale, which has been found to make devices less addictive. In extreme cases, people might want to consider deleting apps entirely.

For Perjan Duro, an app developer in Berlin, a 20-second delay wasn’t enough. A few months after he installed One Sec, he went a step further and deleted the app for his retirement account.

“If you don’t have it on your phone, [that] helps you avoid that bad decision,” he said.


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