Atlas of Affluence 2022: What, Why and Where We Buy

Atlas of Affluence 2022: What, Why and Where We Buy

Excerpts from the Executive Summary of Atlas of Affluence 2022, a white paper on luxury in India published by TVOF

Why We Buy: Legacy Over Logo

The Why We Buy luxury paradigm is driven by Value and Exhibition (of products and experiences) followed by the name of the brand and logo. Lust for logos may be “back” if trend stories in fashion magazines are to be believed but overall in Atlas of Affluence (AOA) 2022 it took second place and was behind other values now associated with affluent buying.

It is not that logos, wealth consciousness, memberships to exclusive clubs, fine apparel, global couture, stylised destination weddings, high-value gifting, big watches and precious jewellery—have vanished. They are all in the fray but they now compete inside the consumer’s mind and wallet in a compelling duel.

On the other side are notions of simplicity, time as luxury, capturing the moment instead of stressing about investments into the future. Agency and flexibility over enslavement to goods. Often it is Win-Win. Which means the moment is as important as the future. For instance, the name of the brand (thus its storied legacy and value) creates the highest resonance among buyers. As many as 63% respondents said so. This was followed by 37% who said logos were the drivers that guided brand affinity. Celebrity association, social media, and other factors like shopping inspiration from luxury magazines were ranked lower. Overall 14% total respondents said they looked at fashion and luxury magazines to make purchase decisions. This emerged as the lowest on a list of factors that lead to luxury buying.


Discounts during the pandemic had contributed to the surge in retail and shopping across categories according to news reports. But during the qualitative probing of the AOA 2022 study, consumers did not place discounts among top drivers. So, the argument of marked down prices as a luxury driver wasn’t fully rationalised.

What We Buy: Category Deep Dive

While overall product associations with luxury remain skewed towards jewellery, gadgets, apparel, cars, footwear, handbags, watches, homes and travel, more people are looking for ways to enhance their personal lives instead of adding to savings. Self-indulgence comes out even bigger than exhibition.

For comparison, secondary research was referred to. The State of Fashion 2022 by McKinsey & Company x BoF used the phrase Wardrobe Reboot, to explain how consumers are expected to reallocate wallet share to other categories beyond loungewear and sportswear. “According to that study, 37% fashion executives expect occasion wear to be a top-three category for year on year sales growth.” According to the 2021 report by Bain & Company, luxury cars, personal luxury goods, fine wines and spirits, and high-end design furniture could grow enough to exceed their 2019 levels.


These findings echo among AOA 2022 respondents. Home décor, skin care, accessories and technology were the star performers. Followed by jewellery, tech products, watches and handbags. According to data from Reliance Brands Limited, RBL (comparative period of study—2018 to 2022), among luxury brands sold in India, sales of women’s handbags were at a peak during COVID-19—200% higher than pre-COVID years. Michael Kors handbags stood out in the RBL data. While it is a bridge-to-luxury brand—Indian consumers say it is a rite of passage on their journey of converting to luxury buying.

Fashion has not been totally usurped. However, while 48% total respondents ranked fashion as the top association for luxury buying, 43% admitted they had reduced spending on fashion and accessories. 40% agreed they spent more on technology and 37% said they spent more on premium quality food and nutrition.

Qualitative interviews revealed that the home decor segment had benefited from consumers spending more on their homes, with focus on living rooms and bedrooms. The blending of living and working spaces fuelled “resimercial” growth, with consumers seeking increased comfort.


In the consumer’s mind while fashion as a monolith connotes luxury more strongly than jewellery, watches, cars and travel, the overall spend on it was reduced during the pandemic.

According to RBL data, luxury footwear grew between 2019 and 2021 from less than 1% of the total spend to 3%. However, for bridge to luxury brands footwear grew from 1% in 2019 to 13% in 2021.

When asked to name brands in different categories that instantly reminded them of affluence, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Rado, Rolex, Chanel, BMW, Tesla, Mehrasons’ Jewellers and Tanishq were among the brands that came up. Maldives as a travel destination came up on top. Apple was in this mix, defined as a luxury brand—connoting that the planet of affluence is incomplete without technology. A bite of the “Apple” is a must in this garden of delights. Some even included sports brands like Adidas and Nike, alerting moderators of the qualitative survey how important sportswear and sports accessories are today.

Where We Buy: The Pandemic’s Big O

The uncontested protagonist of the pandemic era is the digitalisation of luxury and technologically sparkling e-commerce experiences. 2 in 3 respondents claimed that they shopped online for the first time ever during COVID-19 restrictions.

Ease of buying and proliferation of luxury e-commerce has changed a lot for non-metro consumers. 36% of non-metro residents agreed that online shopping is easier. In metros, 28% said so. Ease of purchase was also the reason behind 38% of Gen Z, 35% of Gen Y and 34% of Gen X preferring online buying modes.


Two in Three respondents claimed that they shopped online for the first time ever during COVID-19 restrictions.

Limited physical accessibility and availability of fashion and other luxury goods in non-metros is the primary reason why respondents in smaller cities are biased towards online shopping.

According to RBL data (which manages and sells more than 35 luxury and bridge to luxury brands in India), online sales for luxury brands doubled between 2021 and 2022. Fine jewellery brand Tiffany launched an India-specific e-commerce website. On the other hand, for RBL’s bridge-to-luxury brands, online sales increased from 20% in 2021 to 29% in 2022. (This comparison is only available between 2021 and 2022).

Online shopping platform Ajio Luxe which 248 brands (120 international and 128 Indian brands) currently averages nearly a million sessions a day with more than a 1000 daily orders. Ajio Luxe has 40 exclusive brands out of which 28 have been launched in India for the first time. Some of these are Cult Gaia, Stella McCartney, Self Portrait, Benedetta Bruzziches, All Saints, and Zimmerman among others. Part of the excitement behind online buying especially for Gen Z is the access to brands that are not available in India in offline stores. The D2C model in fact makes the most of this very idea.

Similarly, 25% sales of The Collective, the super-premium lifestyle retail chain run by Aditya Birla Fashion Retail Limited (ABFRL) which has 100-plus brands across categories, comes from its e-commerce. 50-55% of demand for luxury goods on The Collective’s e-commerce portal comes from cities where there are no physical stores.

The luxury e-commerce map from India includes Tata Cliq Luxury, another popular e-commerce luxury platform currently has 750 brands live out of which 445 are international and 305 are Indian brands.

To read the Executive Summary or download the full report, click here

All illustrations by Few Steps Ahead.