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About 15 years ago, when a major global fashion magazine was planning a foray into India, it decided to mix beauty and fashion in its catalog of content. The reason: there were not enough takers for haute couture. However, beauty as a category was much more evolved in terms of awareness and acceptance.

Cut to the present: When Reliance Brands presented its Atlas of Affluence 2022 annual report a few days ago, it was a barometer of the progress of the Indian consumer as a shopper of all things luxury.

To be sure, problems of inequality persist. India’s richest 1% account for 22% of total national income. However, the bottom 50% of the population only account for 13% of income according to the 2022 Global Inequality Index. And this disparity is only growing according to the study.

However, the critical audience for luxury marketers may not be those already in showrooms, but those who may soon arrive. For example, women’s handbag sales are up 200% during the pandemic compared to a pre-Covid era. The top-selling brand was Michael Kors according to data shared by Reliance Brands. While Michael Kors is a gateway brand to luxury, Indian consumers have purchased it as a rite of passage on their journey to ultimate luxury.

Another assumption that could give way is that luxury brand purchases are planned purchases. The study suggests that luxury shopping is shifting from a needs-driven activity to an impulsive mindset driven by an elastic and indulgent Indian consumer. Consumers are living in the moment rather than worrying about investing for a future, it’s a message that comes through loud and clear.

Consumers no longer equate investment with the purchase of precious jewellery. This is due to the popularity of brands like Tiffany&Co. or Sabyasachi Jewelery which do not offer any redemption or exchange that high end jewelry retail in India has practiced in the past. In fact, Tiffany’s debuted in India in January 2020, just months before the pandemic-induced lockdown. The pandemic has hardly affected its sales. While the concept of home delivery using high-end concierge services would have been popular during the pandemic, there is plenty of evidence to prove that consumers prefer physical stores.

The slow acceptance of all things digital among this jet set is indicated by other pointers. Nearly 83% of respondents were unaware of the Metaverse. They found it conceptually intriguing and futuristic. Talk about real money that doesn’t recognize cryptocurrencies.

(This weekly column offers insight into the discussions, debates, and soul-searching that go on in the minds of our writers.)

The findings are based on a specially commissioned study in six cities and markets in India…

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