If, like me, you felt last week was 2022’s soft launch - a cautiously optimistic toe in the water after something of a sub-par end to 2021 - Happy New Year and welcome back to the first full week of work of 2022. I predict an infinitely better year than the last two put together. It is true I am an incorrigible optimist - more than being all about the glass half full, I’m just grateful to even have a glass - but quantitative data backs me up: Bain’s latest report, in collaboration with Walpole’s Italian sister association, Fondazione Altagamma, shows that luxury globally has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, with the last quarter of 2021 expected to show growth of 1% on 2019. It is a huge boost if one considers lockdowns have been a feature of the majority of markets, and looking to 2025, they predict sustained 6-8% annual growth. More anecdotally, luxury retailers have been buoyed by customers trading up when buying luxury, particularly when it comes to watches, jewellery and handbags (lots of very happy people opening presents on Christmas day), and although Omicron was yet another huge blow for hospitality and travel, forward bookings suggest the confidence and the spending will return fast.
Of course, luxury’s successes depend on the talent of the people working in its brands, applying their creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and sheer graft to making the sector better, more beautiful, more resilient and even more alluring to an affluent, discerning customer. So it seems very appropriate that the first item on Walpole’s agenda in 2022 is the third-annual Walpole Power List, celebrating fifty of the most happening and influential people in British luxury. Tomorrow, Tuesday 11th January, we’ll gather at The Corinthia - I am ridiculously excited to have a party after pre-Christmas’s omicron-induced damp squib - to raise a glass or two of Laurent-Perrier in a toast to this year’s Power List superstars and see the British luxury New Year in. Walpole member hotels, restaurants and other venues have done heroic work during the pandemic to make their venues as safe as humanly possible so, Covid Pass in hand, I feel it’s not only a pleasure, it’s also a duty to be able to gather together in person somewhere as elegant as The Corinthia and back British luxury hospitality.
The Power List is an annual list so if, once this year’s is published, you don’t see your name on it, don’t be shy about nominating yourself for 2023 (or get a friend to do it if you’re feeling modest). For 2022, we’ve grouped the fifty into ten categories; Connectors, Tastemakers, Rainmakers, Custodians, Pioneers, and Bright Sparks were some of the categories our jury felt best represented the qualities that made talent shine over the last 12 months and I’d love to know what you think.
On 17th January, we also have a breakfast to launch the Walpole Luxury Trend Report, in association with Redrice Ventures: it’s key to look at the kind of macro-trends in luxury we share at our annual Future of British Luxury Summit, but also fascinating to have a look at some of the things that excite customers right now, with some important themes emerging to set the luxury agenda over the next six months and the breakfast will do just that.
Looking forward, there are also a great many anniversaries to celebrate - not least Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. We’ll also mark Brands of Tomorrow's 15th year - Walpole’s flagship mentoring programme which has helped more than 140 new businesses thrive since 2007, many of which are now famous names in the world of luxury, so do keep an eye on our Daily Luxury Digest for Brands of Tomorrow news and events, as well as those connected to big national events.
As a business association, Walpole is always working hard to reinforce its mission to promote, protect and develop British luxury and recently it has seemed that the challenges facing luxury brands in the UK are greater than ever, albeit that the opportunities on the horizon are extremely promising. We hosted 97 digital events last year to help support, inform and convene and came sprinting out of the starting gates on 1st September with live events: our Yearbook party was closely followed by the 2021 Walpole Summit and we managed to host 750 of you at Walpole experiences in just three months - thank you so much for coming - I’m very optimistic that we will be able to build on our ‘in person’ calendar this year and have a full twelve months of being able to meet face-to-face.
Ideas are the life-blood of luxury, and one of the things I’ve found hardest about lockdowns and working from home is that it’s an imperfect context in which to feed one’s imagination and spark up new ideas; those things, for me, really depend on being able to see people ‘in real life’ - it’s the essence of being human, I suppose. When Walpole members are together, incredible things happen - sharing stories, plans and ideas, making new relationships and rekindling long standing friendships are just the half of it. One of the very great joys of Walpole membership is its unique, supportive and collaborative network and the strength of that network - both online and in person - is just one of the reasons that 2022, with all it brings, will be a vintage year.