The other day, at a venerable bookstore in London, I raised an eyebrow at the price affixed to a certain paperback, fired up my phone and compared it with the price on Amazon. My fingers waggled over the screen. But then – after a sudden burst of guilt – I put my device away and bought the more expensive version.
Daunt Books in Marylebone is one of my favourite browsing places, and I’d kind of like it to survive. I enjoy its galleries and skylights and creaky floorboards; the place is inherently civilised. Spending time there is one of life’s affordable luxuries.
Daunt’s is not a traditional luxury company, but it offers the kind of soul-caressing, sensory experience that upmarket brands instinctively strive for. The main reason the luxury industry took so long to warm up to digital – and more specifically e-commerce – was that the environment failed to offer the premium experience it felt its consumers deserved.
Opulent physical spaces have always been a central pillar of luxury branding. Marble-clad, fragrant, full of attractive staff who don white gloves to show you leather goods, they put lofty prices in context. This is not necessarily about convincing you to buy, but more about inducting you into their world.
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