By Michelle Graff
Scottsdale, Ariz.--Colin Cowie, a design consultant and event planner who has a partnership with the Platinum Guild International, emphasized the importance of the client-consumer relationship and offered tips on maintaining it in his recent presentation at the Centurion show.

Cowie first identified the new luxury consumer, who is younger than ever and part of the “Millennial” generation, as wanting and expecting personalization with their purchases and in-store experiences.

This generation currently accounts for 60 percent of new luxury sales, he said, and are more difficult to engage because a wealth of information literally is at their fingertips: they can research prices, quality and even a company’s philanthropic efforts online, determining if that brand aligns with their own beliefs, values and expectations.  

“She’s doing her homework. She’s doing a lot of comparison shopping (on the Internet),” Cowie said. “(Luxury retailers) are working harder in a more crowded market.”

A key move in engaging this detail- and personalization-seeking consumer, he said, is good and proactive customer service: paying attention to detail, listening to what the customer wants, and remembering likes and dislikes.

“Luxury is how it makes you feel,” Cowie said.

Retailers also need to stand out to compete in this competitive luxury environment. Cowie used the example of the circus, a market that was dominated by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey for decades.

In 1984, a new company came on to the circus scene: Cirque du Soleil.

Refusing to travel with animals, which continues to be an issue for circuses today, and redefining the acts that make up a traditional circus propelled the company to success. The company changed what had been done for decades to appeal to a new audience.

Lastly, touching again on the subject of personalization, Cowie addressed what went wrong with luxury: it had become so mass-produced it developed a negative connotation, with Louis Vuitton bags and $3,000 men’s suits available for purchase at places such airports.

Now, luxury is coming back with the idea of “curated, edited and personalized,” giving consumers the feeling that they are purchasing a unique product, such as a piece of jewelry, rather than a mass-produced item many others have.

“Great style comes from ruthless editing,” Cowie said.

Cowie can be reached for questions at, on Twitter at @colincowie or via Facebook at

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