Luxury's next great hope: YUMMY's


We tend to think of the classic "luxury consumer" as a wealthy woman—the buyers of Louis Vuitton bags, Tiffany necklaces and Prada dresses.

But a new report suggests that future growth for luxury will come from a new consumer. They're called YUMMY's—Young Urban Males. They're the new, more mainstream version of the "metro-sexual." And YUMMY's could reshape the $1 trillion luxury landscape.

The report, from HSBC, is called "Rise of the YUMMY. Young, Urban, Male: Three reasons to rejoice." Global luxury sales should grow 8 percent to 9 percent this year—stronger than many expect—helped in large part by the rise of young luxe-hungry males, according to the report.

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While the rise of the YUMMY is global, the trend is emerging first in Japan and South Korea.

"Whether it is cosmetics, outdoor sports, fashion or accessories, male purchases have really started to impact overall growth rates," the report said. "Men-specific luxury stores are one of the ways in which brands have adapted to this new type" of consumer.

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Men already account for 40 percent of luxury sales, according to consultancy Bain. But there are three main reasons the YUMMY could dominate even more sales. Young, affluent men already have cars, so they're moving on to other categories. Second, they are marrying later and therefore can spend more on themselves. And in media, stylish young men are coming back into vogue.

Richard Cope, a researcher from Mintel, the global market research firm, said in the report that, "Taking pride and taking greater confidence from maintaining a well-groomed appearance now defines what it is to be 'a man' in today's society. Rather than being in a minority, men who buy grooming products to boost self-esteem or feel more attractive are now in the majority." He said men are embracing "yoga, beauty goods and the act of shopping itself."

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Companies that cater to the YUMMY will prosper. Burberry, for instance, is developing "travel tailoring" for men, which can withstand the rigors of a long-haul flight and a few nights on the town and still look fresh. TOD's, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and others have also done well targeting the YUMMY.

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"Some brands (e.g. Tod's and Ralph Lauren) provide clients with the opportunity to relax and share a drink in their lounge bar," according to the report.

It said some of the more traditional men's brands—Ermenegildo Zegna, Corneliani and Canali—may struggle as they face tougher competition from YUMMY-er brands such as Brioni and Tom Ford. Companies that have splashy men-only stores will also shine.

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But there are risks to YUMMY's growth strategy. Men are far more sensitive to the economy, when it comes to their luxe spending. During a downturn, they stop spending, so that's a greater sales risk.

For now, however, the luxe industry is salivating over the YUMMY. Let's just hope it doesn't bring another wave of manbags.

CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.