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GUEST COMMENT Wellness as a luxury

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Wellness as a luxury in the digital age

Skimping on sleep, working long days and leading a hectic lifestyle in pursuit of wealth have lost their glamorous sheen. Instead, fit bodies, rested faces and youthful vigour are quickly becoming the new signifiers of affluence. People are increasingly flaunting their wellness, predominantly through social media, in ways that they might have traditionally shown off an expensive watch or a luxury car.

At FGRT, we have covered this trend extensively and, here, we present some of our key findings about wellness as the new luxury.

Millennials: the wellness advocates

Consumers are embracing wellness by living well, sleeping well and eating well. Across all three of these behavioural trends, millennials—roughly, those born between 1980 and 2000—pursue wellness most avidly. And part of that pursuit involves purchasing particular goods and services and showcasing their lives on social media.

How millennials are living well

One way millennials are living well is by pursuing aspirational, social experiences as part of their fitness regimes. We see this in the premiumisation of workouts and fitness classes, the growth in the number of collegiate workout clubs (many of which take the form of park-based boot camps), and the development of the fitness events industry.

The athleisure apparel trend is another visible consequence of millennials opting to live well, as it is a public display of active living beyond just going to the gym or attending fitness classes. Wearing Fabletics track pants or a Lululemon sports top allows consumers to flaunt their focus on fitness even when doing something as mundane as shopping for groceries.

Social media has been key in terms of consumers demonstrating their wellness, as it enables users to share images and text regarding their training activities, food and fitness progress, as well as suggestions, tips and motivation for others. As of July 31, 2017, on Instagram alone, there were more than 208 million posts tagged with the “#fitness” hashtag and more than 12 million posts tagged with “#wellness.”

How millennials are sleeping well

Ambitious millennials seem to suffer from the poorest sleep compared with other generations, and many of them attribute this to wanting to stay up late in order to accomplish a great many things. Some 54% of American 18 to 29-year-olds say they sleep just about enough, compared with 63% of people aged 60 and over, according to a January 2017 survey of US adults by research firm Statista. Splurging on pricey but innovative mattresses and indulging in guided meditation and deep-rest classes are two notable ways through which millennials are addressing their lack of sufficient, quality sleep.

Online-only mattress retail is a fast-growing segment and several brands have already struck a chord with busy millennials who seek instant convenience. Casper is the most celebrated disruptor in the mattress category. With a premium positioning, the startup has encouraged people to view mattresses as an aspirational and desirable purchase. This has, in turn, contributed to the trend of consumers investing in the quality of their sleep. The brand engages strongly with customers on social media, encouraging them to share their purchases and experiences on Twitter.

Furthermore, just as the demand for wellness has spurred a boom in fitness classes, it has also resulted in an increased number of deep-rest and “napercise” classes available to consumers. These classes allow attendees to take naps in groups, thus adding a social element to the individual act of sleeping. New-York–based meditation studio Inscape was one of the first companies to introduce deep-rest classes, where participants are guided to “let go and recharge.”

How millennials are eating well

Young people are also showing heightened interest in eating natural, wholesome foods. Diets are no longer about simply choosing fat-free or sugar-free options, cutting calories, and checking how many pounds one has lost. Younger consumers’ pursuit of a more natural diet centres on clean eating, vegetarianism and consumption of protein-rich foods. We have also observed mass adoption of “free from” foods and growing interest in organic and fresh foods. In short, the new culture of eating well is more focused on the intake of natural foods than on the “output” of losing weight. And, as with the other components of wellness, many consumers are showcasing their healthy eating habits on social media: fully 69% of younger consumers in the US have shared pictures of food they are about to eat, according to consumer intelligence firm Maru/Matchbox.

In our view, this trend of consumers enthusiastically sharing how they are living well, sleeping well and eating well is similar to the conspicuous consumption historically seen in conventional luxury sectors.

Offline engagement will help capture further share in the wellness market

Wellness is inherently experience-driven. This means online retailers must consider offline initiatives to serve customers, and retailers may benefit by exploring partnerships with relevant wellness service providers or other retailers.

In London, Lululemon  offers in-store “Midweek Meditation” sessions led by the brand’s meditation ambassador and well-being consultant, Jody Shield. Nike organises running clubs from its stores with training plans tailored to participants’ various goals, such as competing in a 5K run or a full marathon. As these events tend to be physically demanding, participants may like it if post-workout nutrition is easily accessible at the venue.

British department store Selfridges houses a holistic wellness space called the Body Studio, which offers a host of “fashion, fitness and well-being” products and services. These include a café that serves healthful foods, a studio that helps shoppers find well-fitting lingerie, a hair and beauty salon, and a workout space where bike workouts and immersive yoga classes are held. In the US, Saks Fifth Avenue has opened a similar concept space called The Wellery in its New York flagship store.

We expect to see more retailers move to meet the demands of consumers for whom wellness is the new luxury. This will likely include store-based retailers adding new services and online-only retailers venturing into physical spaces, even if only through pop-up stores or concessions.

Swarooprani Muralidhar is an analyst at FGRT (formerly Fung Global Retail & Technology)

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