KPMG calculates that there are about 606,000 Poles that it defines as “wealthy” – those earning more than 15,500 zlotys ($4,550) a month – and that their number has almost tripled in the past decade. That level of salary affords a comfortable standard of living in Poland.
“It’s sort of a ‘Made in Poland’ definition of wealth,” says Andrzej Marczak, a partner at KPMG and co-author of the report. “The standards are a bit different in the west, but [Poles] are catching up.”
For Poland’s newly wealthy, luxury purchases are still largely consumables such as expensive watches, clothing, alcohol and accessories. Big-ticket items are still rarities: the vast majority of premium brand cars on Polish roads were bought second-hand, and the country has only nine helicopters in private hands.
However, the top-end market is growing. Warsaw has Rolls-Royce and Ferrari dealerships, the latter at the old Communist party central committee building, and a sleek new shopping centre, Vitkac,selling brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani.
Michal Maske, marketing director with Granturismo Italia, the Polish distributor for Ferrari, says the Italian carmaker usually works through independent dealers but that it has to find a solid local partner who can invest enough to keep up brand standards – and that is now possible in Poland. “The biggest factor was that someone here had to decide on opening a salon.”
However, the brushed metal and concrete-floored space of Vitkac is not crowded, and the KPMG study shows that while luxury brands such as Christian Louboutin are available, others such as Tiffany & Co. or Harry Winston are still absent.
Nevertheless, the appetite for quality is spreading. “The Polish middle class has travelled. They’ve been to ski in the Dolomites, and to Paris and to London, and they want the same sorts of things here,” says Robert Mielzynski, who opened an eponymous Warsaw wine bar and an upmarket boutique selling limited-edition olive oils and balsamic vinegars eight years ago. “A lot of people doubted me, but I knew this would work.”
Mr Mazgaj is now aiming at the same market. He has a network of delicatessens and a chain, Krakowski Kredens, selling sausages, meats and preserves that use traditional recipes. “Apricot jam according to Countess Potocka”, a 19th century aristocrat, is one example.
“The only area where Poland really stands out is food,” says Mr Mazgaj, who plans to open Krakowski Kredens overseas. “If we wanted to be bloody clothing designers, no one would believe it – but we can do it in food.”
As Poland continues to catch up with western European living standards, Mr Mazgaj calculates that the appetite for luxury is nowhere near sated. “Out in the countryside, if you ask people what a luxury brand is, they’ll say ‘Adidas’. A lot of people have never heard of Patek Philippe or Armani,” he says. “We still don’t have a mass market in luxury in Poland.”