by Deanna Ting | September 24, 2013
When it comes to luxury incentive merchandise, brands still hold immense power. “There’s a big difference between just a nice bag and a Tumi,” says Mike Landry, director of special markets for Tumi. “A luxury item has more to do with the brand name and exclusivity than it does with price,” adds Tom Taraci, CEO of Taraci Motivation.  

But just which brands hold sway and for what items? Well, it depends. “Today, luxury really depends on the recipient, and his or her own definitions of luxury,” says Tasha Sharp, president of Sharp Incentives. “It’s about aspiring to have something a step up.” In a word, luxury today is relative. These, however are a few trends worth noting.

Well to Do 
“A new category that we haven’t really seen before is wellness,” says Louise Anderson, president, Anderson Performance Improvement Company. She notes increased demand for the Jawbone UP, a wristband that keeps track of a wearer’s movements and sleep habits and syncs this information to a smartphone. “It’s a source to get information that pertains to them and they are very interested in their health,” she says.

Health is also a motivating factor in the popularity of such items as Vitamix blenders, which retail from $399 to $649 each, says Sharp. 

Billie Reise, director of marketing for Incentive Concepts, says she has seen a large number of redemptions for Life Fitness home fitness equipment.

Home Is Where The Heart Is
Sharp still sees high-end housewares and cookware in high demand. “We’ve seen so many people request the at-home coffee center — the Keurigs, Cuisinarts, Nespressos, and Jura-
Capressos,” she says. Other popular brands include Le Creuset and Dyson. “Things that make your life easier around the house are some of our top sellers,” says Sharp. 
Keeping Tabs
Tablets have surpassed TVs in demand. “In electronics, it’s all about tablets,” says Anderson. Apple, she says, is still No. 1. By extension, Jessica Brown, senior director of luxury goods at Rymax Marketing Services, says, “This year’s biggest trend is the emergence of the luxury multifunctional case for electronic devices [decorative cases for items such as iPads.]” 

Other popular electronics this year include Bose noise-cancelling headphones and digital SLR cameras from Canon, Nikon, and Sony.

Watch It
Luxury watches continue to be a strong incentive award. Adrienne Forrest, vice president of special markets for Bulova, says, “The watch industry is seeing a very big surge in popularity because they are a fashion accessory that tells time. You can get your time with any other gadget you might have, but your watch is an overall statement of you.”

Making a statement with luxury items isn’t a new trend, but it’s an extremely important one among younger incentive participants, says Brown. “Millennials are different from the generations that came before them in the ways they use luxury brands to communicate their success.”

Custom Couture
When it comes to luxury fashion, personalization and customization are becoming increasingly popular, says Taraci. “Customization is extremely important, and brings a dramatic increase in engagement,” he says. At Rymax, Brown sees greater emphasis on presentation and packaging. Tumi’s Landry sees an uptick in requests for monogrammed items, and Bulova’s Forrest says watchmakers like Bulova are responding to individual tastes with a wider variety of styles, colors, and 
finishes than ever before.