In the wake of the unprecedented challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the luxury sector witnessed a remarkable resurgence, defying initial fears of a prolonged downturn.
However, as the industry faces a recent slowdown, professionals aspiring to make their mark in the world of opulence find themselves navigating an evolving landscape. Pursuing a business masters degree in luxury management can be a valuable stepping stone for those aiming to enter or thrive in this dynamic sector.
These courses can play a pivotal role in preparing students to navigate and contribute to the evolving landscape of the industry in the post-pandemic era. “In the current context, a master’s degree specializing in the luxury industry is more relevant than ever,” says Anne Sophie Courtier, Director of MSc Programs and Associate Director of the MiM Program at Neoma Business School in France.
“The pandemic has profoundly impacted the sector, necessitating an innovative and adaptive approach. The luxury industry, which previously did not have to struggle for its survival, has had to adapt quickly, particularly by developing online strategies, such as sensory marketing, to recreate the luxury experience in a virtual environment,” she adds.
These changes are directly reflected in the courses that are offered within the IMlux (International Master in Luxury Management) program at Neoma, delivered jointly with the Polimi Graduate School of Management in Italy.
Students enrolled in the program gain generalist management skills with specific expertise in the luxury sector, and many work for renowned houses like Dior, where Courtier notes that a deep understanding of luxury codes is valuable.
“Our program combines theoretical teachings with practical experiences, in collaboration with key sector players. An example of this approach is our partnership with Parfums Christian Dior, whereby our students have the opportunity to engage in practical case studies, directly confronting the realities and current challenges of the luxury market,” says Courtier.
Meanwhile, Florence Rollet, Head of the MSc in Luxury Marketing and Management at France’s Emlyon Business School, says that students learn about the consumer retail experience and the digitalization of the luxury industry. “They also learn how to create their own luxury label, they understand the very important leverage of sustainability in the industry -- and they are also taught the storytelling strategy of luxury brands,” he adds.
The 120 students who join the program at Emlyon each year, aged between 21 to 24, come from multiple backgrounds and approximately 35 nationalities. On graduation, they tend to join either marketing or retail positions as well as merchandising or supply chain within the luxury industry at groups such as Richemont, LVMH, Kering or Hermès -- as well as smaller players in the sector.
With sustainability becoming an increasingly important aspect of business practices for these companies, the program at Emlyon – like other business schools – incorporates sustainability into their curriculum. “Students will need to acquire the basic knowledge around science-based climate targets and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” Rollet says.
It is a similar story at Grenoble Ecole de Management within the MSc Fashion, Design and Luxury Management Program. “Sustainability has been the theme of our one-week study trips to Paris and Milan for the last four years,” notes Isabelle Chaboud, the Program Director. “Our students have also met the Sustainable Development Manager from the Kering Material Innovation Lab and the International Chief Sustainability Officer from Guerlain.”
Additionally, business schools like Grenoble will equip students with the skills to leverage digital marketing and e-commerce trends in the luxury sector, which have become more pronounced in the post-Covid era.
“Our students benefit from a digital marketing module taught by an Italian consultant who deals with digital marketing strategies daily. It gives the students the opportunity to experience topical real-life business issues and examples,” adds Chaboud. “They also have a module on retail management delivered by an experienced professional who has worked for a major player in fashion at the international level.”
And, considering the global nature of the luxury industry, these masters programs encourage an international perspective and provide opportunities for students to gain a global understanding of the luxury market.
“Our program provides a course on international luxury markets and consumers, covering Asia, Europe and the Americas. Students can study the market specificities and opportunities, and understand the cultural context that influences business practices and consumer preferences,” says Sabine Ichikawa, Director of the MSc International Luxury Marketing at Essca School of Management.
She adds that participants gain specialized knowledge that can set them apart in the competitive job market of the luxury industry. “Students acquire skills specific to companies that have aimed at excellence since their inception and throughout their value chain, from concepts and design, production processes, retail and e-commerce, services and customer relationship management as well as digitalization,” Ichikawa says.