Post-recession, the rich are looking beyond the "more is better" philosophy and instead, choosing to purchase items they view as truly luxurious. Those that make the cut are typically one-of-a-kind, crafted of exceptional quality and have a history that has meaning to the new owner, says Cara David, managing partner at YouGov.
Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions, HA.com
This handbag deserves its own security guardFor handbag aficionados, the iconic Hermes Birkin has long been at the top of the list of covetable items. And for those who truly seek to redefine luxury, the vintage, one-of-a-kind Birkin headed for the auction block later this month ticks all the boxes.
The crocodile bag, encrusted with 245 diamonds and 18-carat gold hardware, is "meant to evoke images of the majestic Himalayan mountains," according to Heritage Auctions, which is offering the bag to the highest bidder in a sale later this month. Experts expect it to smash previous records and fetch as much as $200,000, according to London's Daily Mail.
How the rich are buying nowDavid says The Survey of Affluence and Wealth, by Time Inc. and YouGov, finds that the affluent feel that luxury is less about price than it is about experience. "Luxury is in the eyes of the beholder," she adds. "It's very personal, and what might define luxury for one person is different than it is for someone else."
In the survey, 70 percent of respondents indicate that in the wake of the recession they are buying fewer items, but they want higher quality. Even more interesting, 52 percent say they actively take part in auctions, partly because they feel they are getting a better price for something unique, David notes, and partly because it gives them an enjoyable experience.
The thrill of explorationBuying at auction is different than your run-of-the-mill shopping trip, David says, because you have the adventure of an unknown outcome and an unusual story to go with your acquisition.
The diamond Birkin is more than a handbag, David says. It's a collectible and, as with any other collectible -- whether it's fine wines, watches or vintage toys -- the ultimate luxury is the thrill that comes from obtaining the top of the line. "It's about enhancing the quality of life with the acquisition," she adds. "It's about the story behind it."
In that way, buying at auction becomes sort of like travel, she adds. For 87 percent of survey respondents, the ultimate goal of luxury is to allow for more meaningful experiences. Auctions are viewed as not only a fun activity, but a chance to have that experience.
"If you think about the experience of travel -- exploring the new and unknown, the memories, the first-class service -- and then you think about retail these days, is there anything about retail that replicates that? Not much," says David. But auctions still do, she adds.
"Luxury has more to do with the time spent versus the things purchased," she says. The rich want to know, "Is the time it's taking to make this purchase valuable to me?"
For more auction news: You won't believe what they're auctioning off at an event commemorating country-music star Waylon Jennings.
By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com