I am always on the lookout for research on Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) consumers, who are commonly defined as having a $30 million net worth as an entry point. However, many times I have to settle for a broader cut, which is why I was interested to see Shullman Research Center’s Insights Into Luxury, Affluence and Wealth published about a week ago.
The Shullman report looks at three slices: Consumers with a household income of at least $500,000 which in the U.S. represents the vaunted 1 percent of households; those with a personal net worth of $1 million + making up 11 percent of adults, and those with a personal net worth of $1 million + in liquid assets, or six percent of U.S. adults.
The executive summary is succinct: “The good news for luxury marketers, their agencies, and the media alike is that consumers with really deep pockets are digging into those pockets with gusto, even more so than their merely affluent counterparts. These extremely high-income and wealthy luxury consumers are also purchasing with greater frequency, and this also bodes well for the entire luxury category. At the same time, challenges remain, as quality and service continue to be important for these deep-pocket consumers as well as for other luxury purchasers.”
By the same token, I was surprised to see that only 40-44 percent of the three categories said they had made 6+ luxury purchases over the past 12 months (even if it compared favorably to 5 percent of all adults). Again, 29-30 percent said they had bought at least one piece of fine jewelry at $500+ in the past 12 months. For watches valued at $500 + (not generally what the industry considers high watchmaking) the range was 18-26 percent, and while that is impressive compared to the 3 percent of all adults, it is not in line with research on spending by UHNWs.
Shullman’s research is important because it contrasts the difference between High Net Worths (HNWs) and the Super Rich. Recent research by Northrop & Johnson, a leading broker of superyachts shows 85 percent of their customers (Net Worth Average $160 million) buy fine jewelry annually and 50 percent by high-end mechanical watches annually. Research I have been involved in with private jet owners showed similar numbers. Wealth-X research shows the average UHNW household spends $117,000 annually on watches and jewelry, and the Super Rich account for 35 percent of all global purchases in these two categories.
I think the message marketers can take away from Shullman is if they want to sell expensive products with price tags in excess of $10,000 and find customers who can buy regularly, $500,000 is not high enough in terms of a household income target, and low single figure millionaires are probably of limited value.