Most people can buy what they need. Some people can buy what they want. Few people can buy what they dream
For 40 years, The Robb Report has been the manual of luxury. It’s synonymous around the world with affluence; and only features the best of the best. I recently met Bruce Wallin, Executive Editor of Robb Report at a luxury travel conference and asked to interview him about the world of luxury; and his thoughts on what has made the Robb Report remain at the top of its class.
Risa Feldman: What’s your personal definition of the term luxury/luxury life?
Bruce Wallin: For me, I think of luxury in terms of experience. Luxury is the ability to do things that other people aren’t doing and don’t get to do. It’s the privilege of having experiences that, I shouldn’t say money can’t buy, because it can buy, but the privilege of having experiences that are yours and yours alone.
RF: How would you define what Robb Report is? What’s its category?
BW: Well, I will tell you what it’s not. It’s not a Travel Magazine. It’s not a Car Magazine. It’s not a Fashion Magazine. It’s a magazine with a little bit of everything for high net worth individuals, showcasing what they may want to can spend their money on.
RF: So, basically a Lifestyle Magazine.
BW: Yes, but Ultra Luxury Lifestyle. It’s a magazine about all the fun and amazing things that connoisseurs can do with their money We’re not about giving investment advice. Whether it’s buying wines, watches, automobiles, travel … We have experts in each of the categories that we cover. We have a jewelry expert, we have a men’s fashion expert, we have two car experts. Like yourself, travel has always been my area of specialty. We rely on each of those people to really understand the market for the types of people who have the money to collect watches, or wines or who can travel anywhere they want.
RF: A lot of the products in Robb Report are gender neutral, however who is the main demographic.
BW: Our readership is primarily male, married, in his 50’s, and has the financial resources to enjoy life to its fullest.
RF: High net worth individuals typically stay on the look out for what’s new in the luxury product market – The BBD ( Bigger, Better Deal). Over the years have you seen any changes or trends in what they are spending their money on?
BW: Yes. I’ve been with Robb Report for over 15 years, and things have drastically changed in that timeframe. One major change was after 9/11. That tragedy woke many people up, and they started to spend more time with family and less on solo activities. Up until 2008, the great recession, there was a lot of emphasis on cars, watches, planes, yachts. Since then, we’ve seen a shift far more toward people spending their money on experiences. They want to spend their money experiencing things and creating memories with their families and friends rather than buy an expensive product. One example I’ll give; our January 2009 issue was a travel issue and included 10 ultimate trips around the world. These were incredibly expensive, hundreds of thousands of dollars, to different parts of the world. We really debated about running the story as the financial outlook was so bad and many were really struggling. We decided, we couldn’t be apologetic for who we are, The Robb Report, a luxury publication. We had to continue to produce this material. We came out with that luxury travel issue, and the owner of the company we highlighted for an Africa trip, called me and said he had sold two Safaris, each worth over a hundred thousand dollars since our story had just come out two weeks before. That was telling for us. In that okay, supposedly people are walking out of Tiffany’s with brown paper bags right now, hiding their purchases, and everyone is afraid to spend money because it appears showy. Even the people who still do have the resources are being hesitant. People were still spending their money, but they were spending it more on things like travel. I would say it was kind of a shift away from conspicuous consumption and more toward experiential.
RF: Is Robb Report published both Domestic and Internationally?
BW: What we publish here in the United States is the mothership edition. We publish 16 different editions around the world; Russia, China, Singapore, Brazil, so on and so forth. So, basically it’s available worldwide.
RF: How has the internet and social media impacted your market segment circulation?
BW: The internet has been a huge opportunity for us to reach a younger, more aspirational audience that wasn’t necessarily going to pick up an issue for $12 on a newsstand. The internet provides a way to access our content in a different format and an easier way to digest the medium. Both our social media and website has really enabled us to reach a younger demographic that we feel will soon be that 50-something, high net worth individual, who can afford to buy that yacht, and our publication.
RF: Does your publication speak more to those who come from old money or speak to those with new money? Am I ok asking that?
BW: Ha, sure. Well the truth is, it’s for both. We have a number of readers who fit in to both of those areas. A lot of the old money have read us for a long time and they look to us as collectors, as connoisseurs of luxury things. I think the new money readers are those looking to us as, now that they can afford these things. There’s a whole world out there to discover and with new money one starts to figure out who they are and what their interests may be. Is it art or collecting automobiles… I like to think that we help shape some of those decisions and point them in the right direction, should they choose one path or another.
RF: Does the publication try and cover more items that are new and trendy versus classic and traditional.
BW: We certainly aim to cover products that will maintain the highest level of quality and desirability. Most important it’s about the lasting quality and the lasting style that these products have. I wouldn’t classify Robb Report as cool and trendy.
RF: So if a super expensive new watch, that offers something different than any other watch contacts you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will feature it?
BW: Exactly. We do run into that situation quite a bit. We are introduced to a brand new product that looks great, but we don’t know anything about its longevity or the company. So we need to be really careful. Whereas, if Patek Philippe is coming out with a new watch, we already know who they are, and have a strong level of trust in their name. We would still look at the watch to decide if it is a fit for our publication, and chances are it probably would be, because it is a Patek Philippe.
RF: Im trying to think of a magazine comparable to Robb Report, but geared towards women? I can’t seem to think of any.
BW: Correct, there really isn’t. We are actually launching one this Spring! It will be for the high net worth woman who is a collector/connoisseur.
RF: Any products or subject matter that the publication has not covered or wont cover?
BW: We cover a lot of wines, spirits and cigars. Now that Cannabis has become legal we are starting to get pitches on both the product and also the experiences that have been created around it. To date, we’ve avoided it, but there is a luxury market. Just like there is with some bottles of whiskey that cost 200 dollars, some bottles of whiskey cost ten. You have the same thing with marijuana, and at some point I think that that’s probably a market that we would finally cover. But we’re not going to jump into it anytime soon.
RF: Are there any travel trends right now that you see from Robb Report readers?
BW: There is definitely more of a drive to go to new and different places and be the first person to go somewhere. There are also the iconic places that will always remain a favorite of our readers such as Aspen, no question about it. That said, I think a lot of people are also saying okay, instead of spending all our time in Aspen, where else might we go this year, in addition to Aspen? Having an adventure is becoming more and more important to people. A family that has been going to Aspen every year, for years and years are now saying, Aspen is great and always will be but lets add on something new. Maybe heli-skiing in Iceland. They can stay in a luxury lodge and ski these pristine slopes that no one’s ever skied on before. Name your own run because no one’s ever gone down that chute before. And then next year let’s go back to Aspen and enjoy the absolute level of luxury that we’re accustomed to.
RF: That is exactly the thinking with my Luxury Beyond Aspen feature. Introducing new experiences and destinations to our readers. What’s one place that you haven’t been to that is on your bucket list.
RF: Really, Antarctica? What’s the appeal?
BW: Yup. That’s the only continent I haven’t been to and timing wise I want to get down there now to see it, as it’s changing faster than it’s ever changed before. I also just love the kind of sense of vastness and unspoiled wilderness that it offers. I think it would be a fascinating place. Plus I really want to see penguins.
RF: Well that’s reason enough! From one luxury magazine to another, we wish you safe travels and continued success with Robb Report. Ill be on the look out for its new sister publication and if they need a story about penguins in Antartica – count me in!