In recent years, the landscape of luxury retail expansion has undergone notable transformations across various market types. While most segments have experienced a slowdown in new store openings, resort markets have emerged as a beacon of growth and strategic focus for luxury brands globally. This shift reflects broader trends and strategic decisions shaping the future of luxury retail.


Across Global Alpha Cities, new store activity declined by 14% year-on-year. This downturn was primarily due to availability constraints in European Alpha cities rather than a shift in brand strategy. But what exactly are Global Alpha Cities? These are cities classified by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) as highly integrated into the global economy. They are centers of political influence, cultural heritage, and economic power, playing critical roles in global networks. Examples include cities like London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo. The saturation of these prime urban locations has made it challenging for luxury brands to find suitable retail spaces, contributing to the decline in new store openings.



Similarly, domestic-focused markets in China also saw a slowdown in activity, reflecting broader economic adjustments. China’s luxury market, once a hotbed of rapid growth, has encountered various economic shifts, including changes in consumer behavior and government policies affecting spending patterns. This has led to a cautious approach by luxury brands in expanding their footprint within domestic markets.


In contrast, resort markets defied the overall trend, with new openings maintaining pace compared to the previous year. This resilience boosted their global share of new luxury store openings to 8%, underscoring luxury brands’ strategic imperative to connect more closely with their clientele in leisure destinations. But what exactly are resort markets? These are areas known for their high concentration of leisure activities, often featuring luxury accommodations, recreational facilities, and exclusive environments that attract affluent travelers. Examples include the French Riviera, Aspen in Colorado, the Maldives, and Hainan Island in China.


European destinations accounted for a substantial 26% share of resort market openings, highlighting their enduring allure among luxury consumers. Iconic locations such as the French Riviera, Swiss Alps, and Italian coastal towns continue to attract affluent travelers seeking high-end shopping experiences. However, it was Hainan Island in China that stole the spotlight, leveraging its duty-free status to attract significant luxury retail activity despite domestic spending softening. Hainan’s strategic positioning as a duty-free haven has made it a prime location for luxury brands to tap into the Chinese market’s evolving dynamics.



The expansion into resort markets presents unique challenges, particularly concerning real estate availability. While Hainan Island has seen robust retail developments, resort markets often contend with constrained high-street locations. In Europe, the solution may lie in integrating luxury retail within new hotel developments, thereby enhancing the overall guest experience. This integration not only solves space issues but also creates a seamless luxury experience for travelers.


Looking ahead, the ultra-luxury hotel sector in European resort markets is poised to grow by 10.3% by 2028. This expansion not only promises to attract affluent travelers but also provides opportunities for luxury brands to establish or enhance their retail presence in environments traditionally lacking high-quality retail offerings. The strategic focus on resort markets by luxury brands signifies a shift towards meeting consumer demand where they live and play. By expanding into these vibrant and often exclusive destinations, brands not only enhance their global footprint but also enrich the luxury experience for discerning travelers.


As the market evolves, resort destinations are set to play an increasingly pivotal role in the luxury retail landscape, offering both challenges and significant opportunities for growth and innovation. This shift towards resort markets represents a strategic adaptation to changing consumer behaviors and market dynamics, ensuring that luxury brands remain at the forefront of the global retail scene.

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