College of Business dives into the fast-changing luxury retail landscape


What is luxury retail? It’s not so clear anymore.

“In the past we used to know because it was defined by a certain number of very exclusive brands,” said Stephen Barnett, faculty executive director of MBA programs at the College of Business. “Today, everyone is trying to figure it out. You have favelas [shantytowns] in Rio where residents have 54-inch TVs on the wall; and who can’t afford a Coach belt?”

FIU’s College of Business will help retail and marketing professionals analyze challenges, understand opportunities and identify must-have strategies for success in this rapidly changing landscape through its Luxury Retail Management Program, which will be held August 10-19 at FIU Brickell.

Designed for those who currently work with luxury clientele, the program will feature faculty and guest experts covering distribution management, retail strategies, international expansion, and digital and e-business strategy. It will also showcase new opportunities in luxury retailing for professionals in law, accounting, wealth management, and banking.

Today, luxury brands aren’t limited to boutiques and high-end department stores as crossovers with mass-market retailers become increasingly common.

Some industry insiders said that luxury risks expanding to a point where it becomes less alluring.

“The exclusivity is what creates a luxury product,” said Barnett. “But today a lot of brands that were high-end names have moved into stores like Target and Walmart.”

With luxury retailing impacted by digital media and its e-commerce, one of the program’s focus areas will be social media, which, experts say, can “make or break” a brand.

“Through social media anyone can have a worldwide audience almost instantaneously if it goes viral,” Barnett said. “We used to be able to control brands’ images, but the internet has democratized who gets to say what. Now brands must pay closer attention to their consumers’ needs and wants, which makes managing the brand more difficult.”

Social media is also playing an important role in consumers’ shopping preferences. Research reveals that many consumers buy more from brands they’ve interacted with on social media. The way people shop has also changed dramatically over the last decade, with online shopping outpacing visits to brick-and-mortar stores.

Now in its second edition, the College of Business’ Luxury Retail Management program focuses on four sectors:

  • retail luxury environment and Latin America
  • branding for the luxury retailer
  • managing the processes that deliver a luxury retail experience
  • implementing strategic plans

“The goal is for the luxury brands to up-skill our middle managers and introduce new professionals into the luxury world,” said Federico Demarin, regional human resources director Latin America at Swarovski, who will be an observer in this year’s program.

Experts point out that Miami, as the third largest market for luxury retailing behind New York and Los Angeles, is the right place to learn about luxury retailing trends. It’s also growing quickly, with relatively new areas such as the Design District already housing Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Cartier, Celine, Prada, Berluti, Lanvin, and others.

There’s also the connection with Latin America, where luxury retail markets are already in place and growing in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Panama. New opportunities are on the rise in Colombia, Peru and various cities in Mexico, currently the most developed luxury market in the region in terms of distribution.

“Everyone is looking at Latin America, and Miami is the base for Latin America,” said Diego Stecchi, founder of Miami-based Luxury Retail Partners, who will participate in this year’s Luxury Retail Management Program. “Luxury brands and mall operators in Latin America need managers and executives; and Miami needs them too in order to grow the number of luxury stores and attract high-end brands.”

For more information contact program director Rosangel Quintero at 305-348-4217 or

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