Affluent Canadians declare 'Excess is Out'



    
    - American Express study finds that wealthy Canadians are seeking value
    and individualization -
    

    TORONTO, March 3 /CNW/ - A study released today by American Express shows
that Canada's most wealthy individuals are going through a re-evaluation of
their lifestyles and attitudes. Excess and gratuitous consumption are out,
says the "Inside the Affluent Space" study, replaced by a more introverted and
new 'individualist' mindset.
    Fueled by the current economic environment the study reveals however that
an underlying trend has emerged over the past few years that has affluent
Canadians asking themselves "What is it that is really important to me?"
    For many, the answer seems to be, authenticity and life enhancing
experiences.
    Conducted in the midst of the economic downturn in the US, and timed
around the Canadian launch of the ultra-exclusive Centurion Card from American
Express- the Black card - the IAS research provides insight into an evolving
view from the upper echelons of the wealthiest in our society that will likely
have major ramifications for the luxury marketplace across Canada.
    "Financial caution in the current economy is definitely driving a more
restrained and pragmatic attitude. But our research shows that the attitude
changes among the wealthy are more deep rooted and fundamental," says Trevor
Van Nest, vice president of consumer card marketing at American Express
Canada.
    "The affluent are still willing to spend on things that are meaningful to
them and will somehow make their lives better. It's about enriching their
lives, not simply being rich."
    This mentality shift has led to the emergence of the 'individualist' - a
wealthy consumer who is more selective, less impulsive, and in many respects
much more discerning and consequently harder to serve from a business
perspective.
    For them the notion of 'mass luxury' is a contradiction. They are
interested in products, services and experiences that are more personalized
and unique. They are interested in relationships rather than transactions.
Acquiring knowledge and a greater depth of appreciation for the luxuries their
wealth can afford them is more meaningful than merely acquiring possessions.
    "For many affluent Canadians, luxury is equated to ease and balance in
life. This is even more evident in the current economic climate, with
consumers evaluating each purchase to ensure that it provides worth and
contributes to their overall lifestyle," says Van Nest.

    
    American Express has identified four new insights that define the
'individualist' mindset, including:

    1. Lifestyle exclusivity is what matters - The new luxury is a lifestyle
       that is unique. Affluent Canadians want to be able to enjoy what is
       important to them.
    2. Excess is out - The 'individualist' wants what is unknown and
       hard-to-get. Being different and authentic is more important than
       impressing others.
    3. Time is like titanium - The 'individualist' is in passionate pursuit
       of ways to leverage their resources to create more time to spend with
       family, friends and on themselves.
    4. Freedom from complexity - The 'individualist' expects personalized
       service by expert providers who understand their lifestyle and deliver
       on their expectations.
    

    In essence, the 'individualist' is a connoisseur driven by a passion and
a pursuit to experience the best, and with the resources to achieve that goal.
    Van Nest elaborates on this theme, "The individualist doesn't buy the
flashiest car they can afford - they buy the vehicle they love and that gives
them a deep sense of personal satisfaction. They don't just take vacations at
luxury resorts, they seek out of the way experiences."

    Marketplace Implications

    The desire for differentiation, demands on their time and the new
realities of the economic situation mean that value and service is everything.
Affluent Canadians are looking for expert partners that truly understand their
needs and expectations and will take the work and complexity out of achieving
their personal aspirations.
    The winners in the affluent marketplace will be those companies who fully
appreciate what it takes to connect with these very important customers. Their
reward is not only a higher spending customer, but one that is willing to
build a long-term relationship that can last for many profitable years.
    Personalization should be a priority for luxury service providers who are
hoping to develop a loyal base of affluent consumers. The research identified
trends for consideration by businesses who service the affluent market,
including:

    
    - Luxury is not a transaction, it's a relationship
    - Market to the individual, not the masses
    - Make convenience a customer service priority
    - Expand expertise - think 'luxury concierge'
    

    "It's a mistake to believe that the high end customer is not concerned
with price. They want the real thing when it comes to quality, personal
attention and value for money. They understand the value of their dollar
perhaps more than most. This is reflected not only in our research, but in our
interactions with some of our highest spending customers who qualify for the
Centurion Card."
    Van Nest explains that for these customers the prestige value associated
with a product like the Centurion Card is not enough. Today more than ever
they need to be able to justify for themselves the value a product or service
provides.

    Global Findings

    Canada is the eleventh country where American Express has published an
IAS white paper, and it is the 16th country where the Centurion Card is
available to a select group of customers.
    Within most other countries the IAS survey found a general movement
towards refinement verses opulence, but with slight variations. The only
exception was in India where the slogan 'I've made it' was associated it with
the ownership of materials and top services such as an American Express Card.
Mindsets and lifestyle expectations are determined by individual market wealth
conditions and culture:

    
    - Singapore's Innovator: Redefines luxury beyond tangible possessions to
      ownership of intangible wealth - exclusive, unique products and
      experiences that create "talk-value."
    - Hong Kong's Connoisseur: Seeks to discover and develop luxury expertise
      to create distinction and prestige as a new form of social currency.
    - India's Aspirer: Seeks ALL the trappings of the affluent lifestyle NOW
      to be "branded" affluent.
    - China's Pioneer: Fast-forwarding to create a world-class affluent
      lifestyle and a collective new history shaped by growing wealth and
      optimism about the future.
    - Australia's Valuator: Defines "worth" based on personal
      satisfaction -- confident in personal choices and not influenced by
      trends or peers.
    - Japan's Consummate Luxury Expert : Luxury is a "National Passion" and
      the affluent lifestyle is self-authenticated, reflecting personal
      knowledge and individual style.
    - Europe's Sophisticate: Luxury is an experience - not a product; seek
      fulfillment through new experiences and knowledge and define value
      based on individual preferences and conscience.
    

    About Inside the Affluent Space

    Inside the Affluent Space is a research driven initiative created by
American Express. It is designed to monitor affluent consumers' changing
lifestyle expectations, share this learning with multiple stakeholders and
facilitate market growth. Inside the Affluent Space uses a combination of
internationally recognized research techniques and an innovative approach in
uncovering new emerging lifestyle expectations through a multi-faceted choice
of respondents. In Canada, American Express conducted multiple in-depth
research conversations with affluent consumers, high-end service providers and
merchants in Toronto. American Express manages this program with support from
Synovate, one of the world's leading research firms.

    About American Express in Canada

    American Express in Canada operates as Amex Bank of Canada and Amex
Canada Inc. Both are wholly owned subsidiaries of the New York based American
Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., the largest operating unit of
the American Express Company. Amex Bank of Canada is the issuer of American
Express Cards in Canada. Amex Canada Inc. operates the Corporate Travel,
Travel Services Network and Travellers Cheques divisions in Canada. American
Express opened its first offices in Toronto and Hamilton in 1853 and now
employs 3,700 Canadians coast-to-coast.





For further information:

For further information: or a full copy of the report, please contact:
Suzanne Cohon, ASC Public Relations, (416) 817-6639, suzanne@asc-to.com;
Lauren Dineen-Duarte, American Express Canada, (905) 474-8169,
lauren.i.dineen-duarte@aexp.com


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