With a degree in Business Communication and a Masters in Luxury, Fashion and Art Management from the Sorbonne University, Mónica Seabra-Mendes is one of the leading experts in the luxury segment in Portugal. She is also director of the Executive Luxury Management Program at Católica Lisbon Business & Economics and founding partner of Affluencial, a platform for consultancy and training in the luxury management segment. She has worked with the biggest luxury brands and will be the guest speaker at the March 8th F Club Magazine meeting.
What are the main characteristics of the luxury market in Portugal?
It is a small market but growing and with greater capacity to attract brands with international relevance; the opening of Dior in Lisbon is an example of this. However, it still offers few luxury retail alternatives, not creating opportunities for more brands or for the installation of excellent Portuguese brands. We have an Avenida da Liberdade with shortages, and we have no other alternative. In Porto, the Aliados area is growing towards luxury, but we lack, in general, a good department store concept, so conducive to the development of luxury brands and so present in the great European luxury capitals and in the market American.
If we talk about demand, what can we know?
On the demand side, it is a market with an increasing number of Portuguese and foreign residents, but still with a majority of tourists, as in Paris, Milan or London. But demand has also diversified, bringing new nationalities, such as Chinese and American, to join the traditional geographies of affection, such as Brazilian and Angolan. Demand is not limited to products from international brands and there is a growing interest in excellent Portuguese products, such as embroidery, furniture, handicrafts, porcelain, wine and others, as well as in the area of real estate and luxury tourism, hotels, experiences and gastronomy, sectors with increasing expression in the luxury segment in Portugal.
Are there new luxury markets and other sectors emerging?
There are markets that, due to the large number of potential consumers or their appetite and growing purchasing power for luxury, are identified as the markets of the future, as is the case of India, Africa and Latin America. However, these markets have been emerging for a long time, but, for political, social or economic reasons, they never end up being translated into consistent markets. Brazil is an example of a country that, in the first decade of the new millennium, brought a lot of expectations and attracted a lot of investment into luxury, but ended up not living up to it. Asia and the USA will thus continue to be the engines of world luxury. As for activity sectors that have become more relevant to luxury, one of them is undoubtedly the Longevity, Health & Wellness market. For those who have access to everything, having more time and a better life is the ultimate luxury.
Do luxury brands communicate well or is there still something to do?
It is a question that lends itself to several reflections. So as not to go on too long, I would just mention that luxury brands have made an effort to communicate with the new generations, using a captivating language, without alienating more traditional customers, who also demand to see themselves in the brand. For brands in general, this is a challenge, but for luxury brands, this balance is even more demanding. I believe that never have we seen so many “trials and errors” in communication and positioning in luxury brands to respond to different expectations and requests. The latest Nike x Tiffany collab is a concrete example of a certain “navigation in sight” demonstration.
Can we consider Portugal a luxury?
Portugal has extraordinary endogenous factors and values that can help you redefine the luxury of the future, I can’t say enough. The privileged location, the gastronomy, the authenticity, the quality of know-how, the culture, the security, and the respect for privacy. That’s why we have attracted an international elite that identifies with these characteristics as an alternative to other luxury destinations and more mundane luxury. There is, however, a substantial difference between “Portugal being a luxury” and being a “luxury destination”. There is still a lot to improve in terms of infrastructure, urban planning, landscaping, service and, ultimately, in positioning and communication so that our country, never losing its identity, creates more value and continues to attract all those who are able to respect and appreciate us, paying a fair price.
How is it to live between luxury and what do you feel for your work?
My work is a pleasure, not because I work in the luxury sector, but because I do what I like and I have the privilege of contacting daily with brands, companies, projects, and people in creative sectors, many of them associated with cultural heritage and knowledge -make awesome. I deal with professionals committed to excellence and with a lot of energy to do more and better. There are many companies/brands repositioning themselves or strengthening their position in the luxury sector in Portugal and being an active witness to this process is rewarding. In fact, one of the greatest rewards of my career was having contributed to putting the topic of luxury management on the agenda. Today, Portuguese brands are not shy about assuming this position and are open to learning. The Luxury Management program at Católica Lisbon Business & Economics that I direct have seen unprecedented demand.
Did your professional career push you towards this sector or was it a fluke?
I never thought of working in the luxury area, but I was always interested in excellence, in aesthetics and I always appreciated beauty, art. It turned out to be a natural process, but very much driven by teachers, colleagues, and friends and, later, by peers and professionals who always encouraged and invited me to follow this path. Whenever there was an opportunity in this sector, they thought of me. It always seemed to be the right profile. My career ended up always taking place in luxury brands, which later led me to consider a specialization and to decide to share my knowledge in the form of training and consultancy.