Bain’s “A World Awash in Money” (II)

Let’s assume that Bain is correct that the world will be awash in capital over the next decade or so, and that this money will be coming both from investors in the developed world and–increasingly–from the emerging world as well.

I draw two conclusions from this (keeping in mind that Bain may, or may not, be correct):

1.  Interest rates won’t rise as much as the Wall Street consensus expects.  The Fed is saying that the normal rate for overnight loans in the US is 4%+.  This implies that 10-year Treasuries should yield at least 5%, probably more.  If Bain is correct, these figures are much too high  …and, therefore, the rise in bond yields following Fed hints that monetary tightening is on the horizon may have already achieved as much as half the total rise that tightening will bring.

2.  Consider the factors of production:

–capital

–labor

–land/materials/resources and

–knowledge (technology, entrepreneurship, craft skill).

Which of these will be in short supply relative to the others?   I.e., which will be the most valuable?

If Bain is correct, it won’t be capital.

The natural resources boom of the past decade has resulted in mining companies making massive investment in new capacity.  Shale oil and gas are beginning to provide new low-cost sources of energy.  So the shortage factor is probably not land etc.

There’s still massive amounts of unskilled labor in emerging economies.  There’s also significant unutilized labor in the US and EU.  So labor isn’t the key factor.

That leaves knowledge, either as technology, craft skill or entrepreneurship as the factor of production in short supply.

 

For investors, the main takeaways are that:

–the current monetary tightening cycle may not be as negative for bonds or stocks as the consensus fears

–like the Internet, ready availability of capital undermines the defensive position of large companies with significant manufacturing capabilities and established brand names.  Think:  Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Barnes and Noble, J C Penney.

There’s a second point to this list, as well.  In all of these cases, finding leaders with the right knowledge base to put the firms’ substantial assets to work has proved to be very difficult.  It may be that in an environment where capital is easy to come by, talented entrepreneurs have much better alternatives than masterminding turnarounds for financial buyers.  If so, the value investor tactic of buying shares in asset-rich companies and waiting for something good to happen may not retain its traditional allure.  So-called value traps will outnumber successful turnarounds by a lot.

Bain Luxury Goods Spring update (II) : structural changes in the luxury market

structural changes

Yesterday I wrote about Bain’s analysis of prospects for global luxury goods sales in 2013.  Today, I’m going to take a look at what the consulting company perceives as possible structural changes in the worldwide luxury goods market.

There are two big ones:

Asian tourists remaining closer to home

Japan:  Twenty years + of economic stagnation had finally begun to take a toll on the seemingly insatiable Japanese demand for European luxury goods a few years ago.  Recent sharp devaluation of the yen has depressed this appetite further.  Skeptics (like me) of the ultimate success of Abenomics must believe that this is a permanent change.  Given that, pre-devaluation, the price of luxury goods in Japan has typically been much higher than elsewhere, the negative effect of lower Japanese spending on the profits of luxury goods manufacturers will probably be disproportionately high.

China:  Weakness of the renminbi vs. the euro is a mild negative.  More important, Bain points out that Chinese luxury buyers are beginning to turn away from Europe toward Macau, Hong Kong and Australia as vacation destinations.  On the surface, it shouldn’t make much  difference whether Chinese customers on holiday buy in France or Cotai.  However, the change in vacation travel venue may give a significant opportunity for budding Pacific-based luxury brands to take business away from European rivals.  I think this is already happening.

the Baby Boom passing the baton

Bain characterizes the luxury goods preferences of different age groups as follows:

Baby Boomers (55+)  want:

–a bricks and mortar store

–a one-to-one interaction with a salesperson who represents the brand ans who also knows them well

–high-priced scarce or one-of-a-kind items that they think confer status on them individually as people of unusual taste and means

–a formal buying ritual.

In contrast, Generation Y (20-35) and Generation Z (0-20)–i.e., the children of Baby Boomers–want:

–instant availability 24/7, whether through physical stores or online makes no difference

–to be defined by brand values, but to be able to influence those brand values as well

–unique or novel items, which are not necessarily the most expensive, but which are personalized and which identify them as members of a certain group

–to be entertained.

In a nutshell, this is the difference between buying statement jewelry in a private room and buying a handbag in an online flash sale.  The branding, selling and infrastructure skills differ greatly from the first transaction to the second.

This difference in outlook is increasingly important, because the Baby Boom is retiring and its children are emerging as a new generation of luxury buyers.  One might even argue–with how much validity I’m not sure–that the sudden drying up of demand for traditional high-end European luxury goods in Japan is mostly a function of an aging population and a shrinking workforce.  If so, we may begin to see the same phenomenon in Continental Europe before this decade is out.  Again if so, luxury goods companies that don’t refocus themselves to cater to the preferences of a younger generation of consumers will find themselves struggling to retain relevance.

Bain Luxury Goods Worldwide Study: Spring 2013 update

Consulting firm Bain issued the latest in its series of important studies on the global luxury goods industry last month.  Thanks to Bain, I’ve just received a press copy of the study itself.

I’m going to write about it in two posts.  Today I’ll cover Bain’s view of industry prospects for 2013.  Tomorrow, I’ll write about longer-term structural changes underway for luxury goods.

2012 results

(It’s important to note that the study, conducted by well-known Bain analyst Claudia D’Arpizio, is done in cooperation with the Italian luxury goods trade association, Altagamma.  This means the sales figures are presented in €.  Also, the concept of luxury goods used has a strong traditional European emphasis.)

in € terms

In € terms 2012 was an above-trend sales year, one very close to being on par with 2011.  In both period luxury goods revenues grew by just over 10%, in an industry whose long-term growth rate is closer to +5%-6%.

in constant currency

In constant currency terms, however, 2011 was a +13% year (meaning strength in the € understated how strong the worldwide luxury good business was).  In contrast, 2012 was a +5% year in constant currency (meaning half the revenue rise came from € weakness).

the holiday season

Four factors characterized the key yearend holiday sales season in 2012:

–weaker than expected traffic in the US and Europe

–purchases tended to be for the buyer’s own use, rather than as gifts for others

–online sales, especially mobile, were very strong

–online sales were increasingly driven by special offers and by discounted shipping

2013 prospects…

1Q13 appears to have been a low point.  Sales were up a mere 3% year-on-year in constant currency.  € strength cut that in half in current currency terms.

Bain forecasts a 4%-5% full-year rise in €-denominated sales.

…by region

Japan:  Sharp devaluation of the ¥ has had a strong negative effect on Japanese luxury goods consumption–driven by the resulting loss in wealth and purchasing power of Japanese citizens.

Bain expects luxury purchases by Japanese abroad–notably Hawaii and the EU–to be down by 40% yoy as foreign travel declines and because $- or €-denominated goods have become less affordable.

Bain estimates that an estimated 10% increase in domestic luxury goods purchases will offset some of the shortfall.  But the overall effect will be about a 20% yoy contraction in luxury goods consumption by Japanese this year, a figure more or less in line with the fall in the Japanese currency.

In  Bain’s view, continuing ¥ weakness will limit the luxury goods industry in Japan to +4%-6% growth in € terms in 2013.

China

Chinese spending on luxury goods grew by 20% in constant currency last year, and by 30% the year before.  Bain is forecasting a relatively modest increase of +7% for 2013, however.

The main reason is change in policy by the newly installed central government.  The new leadership in Beijing is discouraging conspicuous consumption by the ultra-wealthy, particularly those with family connections to high-level present or former Party officials (although Macau gambling doesn’t appear to be suffering).  Perhaps more important, the administration has launched an anti-corruption campaign aimed at the widespread soliciting of “gifts” by officials from those seeking, say, business or construction permits.  Some estimates I’ve heard are that such gifting has made up as much as 25% of the sales of certain luxury brands.  Bain only mentions that sales of watches have been especially hurt.

No mention of a shift away from European to domestic Chinese luxury brands, but I think this is also part of the story.

Europe

Although it seems to me that Europe has passed its cyclical low point, and will gradually improve through 2013, the region will scarcely grow at all this year.  As a result of continuing economic weakness, aspirational buyers of luxury goods continue to trade down.  Japanese tourism has slowed dramatically.  And Chinese visitors are purchasing less on their European trips, as renminbi weakness makes €-denominated goods look more expensive.

Bain pegs European luxury goods sales in 2013 at 0%-2% growth.

US

Bain has little to say–good or bad–about US luxury goods buying.  It has penciled in growth of +5%-7% for this year.

the world

Asia ex China’s the best, at +7%-9% growth.  China’s a close second.  Europe’s the worst.  Overall, Bain thinks worldwide luxury goods sales will advance by +4%-5% in 2013.

More tomorrow.

11th Annual Bain Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study, October 2012 (iii): market structure

Yesterday I wrote about long-term trends in the personal luxury goods industry, as seen by the Bain Luxury Goods study.  The prior day, Monday, the topic was short-term revenue growth prospects.

Today’s post will deal with the responses by luxury goods firms to the development of the global market for their products.  I’ll close with Bain’s estimates of the size of the personal luxury goods market in the context of the market for all luxury goods.

continuing slow vertical integration

The traditional model for luxury goods companies has been to design and manufacture their products and sell them at wholesale to third-party retailers, like department stores or multi-brand specialty retailers (think, e.g.: jewelry stores).

The virtues of this way of doing business are:

–it’s simple and

–the time that company cash is tied up in inventory is, under most circumstances, the shortest.  So its financing needs are the least.

Over the past decade or so, however, luxury goods firms have been entering retail themselves by opening free-standing stores of their own or company-owned boutiques in department stores.  Where necessary to do so, they’ve also been buying back territorial distribution rights they had previously granted to third parties.

The rate of change toward vertical integration is slow, but steady, at the rate of about a 1% increase in market share per year.  Currently, luxury goods’ distribution is still predominantly wholesale, with 30% through company-owned retail channels.

Why the shift?

After all, going all the way to the retail customer requires a much more complex company organization and a lot more capital to meet the heavy extra expense of building and keeping up a store network.  At the same time, a firm’s existing wholesale customers can scarcely be thrilled to see the luxury goods company entering into direct competition with them.

Several reasons:

–the price markup from wholesale to retail for luxury goods is immense

–the company has much better, and more current, information about customers, sales trends and inventories if it has a retail operation

–it has much better control over the brand message and the customer experience

–the company has the opportunity to make the customer its client, rather than the department store’s, thereby increasing the size and frequency of purchases.

single brand vs. conglomerate, private vs. public ownership

the rise of luxury conglomerates

In 1995, according to Bain, a majority (55%) of personal luxury goods sales were of products made by a single-brand company.  The rest came from multi-brand groups.

Today, in contrast, sales by multi-brand groups are double the size of those of their single-brand counterparts, which account for only a bit more than a third of industry revenues.

…and publicly owned firms

In 1995 companies that had raised expansion capital in the stock market represented only 30% of luxury goods revenues.  The vast majority of sales were by privately held firms, mostly family owned.

Today, those proportions are reversed.  Only 30% of industry sales come from traditional privately held companies.  Firms representing 65% of total revenues are publicly traded.  Private equity and sovereign wealth funds hold the other 5%.

The reasons behind this transformation are a bit more complex.  They include:

–the massive rise in world GDP over the past few decades that has made the luxury goods market accessible to many more consumers.  According to Bain, the personal luxury goods market has almost tripled in size since 1995

–the development of supply chain software, which makes the management control task more manageable

–revival of once moribund businesses through modern management techniques–Gucci, Tiffany, Coach are names that immediately come to mind, which has attracted capital to the industry

–often a diffuse group of second- and third-generation owners of a private firm would prefer to cash out rather than remain involved in the family business.

where the personal luxury goods industry stands in overall luxury spending

According to Bain, global luxury spending breaks out as follows:

luxury cars    €290 billion, up 4% from 2011

personal luxury goods     €212 billion, up 10%

luxury hospitality     €127 billion, up 18%

luxury wines/spirits     €52 billion, up 12%    (no beer?)

luxury food     €38 billion, up 8%

design furniture     €18 billion, up 3%

luxury yachts     €7 billion, up 2%

Total     ~ €750 billion

Note:  in the food and beverage category, Bain detects a trend toward in-home consumption rather than in restaurants.  Apparently even the wealthy need to economize somewhere.

11th Annual Bain Luxury Goods Worldwide Study, October 2012 (ii): long-term trends

post # 2

This is Day two (of three) blogging about the 2012 Bain global study of personal luxury goods.  Yesterday I wrote about Bain’s analysis of the industry’s growth prospects.  The consulting company’s general picture seems to be that after a post-Great Recession surge in luxury goods spending the industry is settling back toward trend growth.

In the Worldwide Study, Bain has pencilled in 4% – 6% annual revenue expansion as being “trend.”.  My sense, however, is these numbers are there more as prudent (read: low-ball) placeholders than the product of hard core analysis.

Trends

That was yesterday.  Today I’m going to write about the major trends Bain sees in the luxury goods market.  They are:

–tourism  

According to Bain, 40% of the total money spent by buyers outside their home country!  I knew that this phenomenon was big, but I didn’t realize it was so large.

Why not spend at home?

price   Prices are cheaper in the EU than anyplace else.  This is partly because luxury goods makers set prices higher in Asia and partly because of government duties imposed on foreign luxury goods imports.   Outlet shopping may also not be available in the home country (more below).

selection  Two-thirds of worldwide luxury goods distribution is through third parties like department stores, which may focus on only a small number of items.  In some cases (think: China) there may not be stores nearby

anonymity  Buyers may prefer to make purchases that don’t advertise their affluence to their friends and neighbors

–authenticity  Buying from a luxury firm’s retail store gives greater assurance that the merchandise isn’t counterfeit

vacation atmosphere  buyers may be less careful about spending when abroad.

How does Bain know this?  Traditionally, the information comes from credit cards, although in today’s world more progressive companies will be using “big data.”  If so, they’re probably not telling anyone, though.

the geographical spending mismatch

Chinese citizens do 25% of global luxury goods spending; China accounts for 7% of worldwide sales

Europeans do 24% of global spending; Europe accounts for 35% of worldwide sales

Americans do 20% of global spending; the US accounts for 31% of worldwide sales

Japanese do 14% of global spending; Japan accounts for 9% of worldwide sales

Everyone else does 17% of global spending, everywhere else accounts for 18% of worldwide sales.

In the aggregate this is an East/West phenomenon.  Yes, Americans do a little bit of luxury shopping in Europe and Europeans in the US.  But Japanese and Chinese citizens do the majority of their personal luxury goods buying abroad.

–China accounts for 25% of the global luxury goods market.  That’s more than any other country.  And it’s up from basically nothing 12 years ago.

–accessories, not apparel   Accessories, typified by leather goods and shoes, are now the largest segment of the luxury goods market, comprising 27% of total sales vs. 26% for the #2 category, apparel.  They’re also growing faster than apparel.  Reasons:  lower prices, greater recognizability, faster innovation

–men, not women…  Fifteen years ago, men made up a third of the luxury goods market.  Today, that’s up to 41%.  The impetus for this change is the emergence of younger male consumers in China.  Now luxury brands are beginning to cultivate males in the US and Europe as well, where men hav e traditionally been second-class citizen, on the view that men “normally” buy less than women–and are much more highly business cycle sensitive customers.

–…except maybe for China, where Bain notes, for the first time I’m aware, that women business owners, “power women,” are becoming a significant force in luxury goods consumption

–off-price  Outlet shopping, long a staple in the US (59% of global off-price sales this year) , has arrived in Europe–and is being rapidly developed from a very low base in Asia.  Bain reports growth in luxury outlet sales from Chinese customers in Europe of up to 100%+.

The category as a whole will likely grow at a 30% clip in 2012, although it will only account for about €13 billion in total sales.

–online  This market, which is still tiny at an estimated €7 billion in sales this year, is growing at about a 25% annual rate.  It’s 2/3 full price, 1/3 off-price, with off-price growing faster.  Private sales, flash sales and sites for men are the hottest sub-categories.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow, structural features of the personal luxury goods market.