17 November 2022
Meet the Next Gen Collectors
The next generation of collectors is here: savvy millennials and Gen Zs who are side-hustling their way onto the scene. These young entrepreneurs are using digital platforms to seek out alternative asset classes as well as traditional collectables. Here, we look at three categories where next gen collectors are making waves.
Gen Z approaches fashion with an entrepreneurial eye: they’re not interested in just wearing fashion, they want to invest in it. As digital natives, they’re driving what’s known as “the platform economy”: buying collectable items on sites such as Depop and Stock X, and flipping them for a profit. When it comes to reselling, sneakers lead the way. Sneakers have emerged as a bona fide alternative asset class – even Sotheby’s is selling them – and the resale segment of this market is booming: it’s expected to soar from $6 billion in 2019 to $30 billion in 2030.
There’s even a sneaker investment platform. Las Vegas start-up Rares hit the headlines in 2021 when they bought the world’s most expensive pair of shoes: Nike Air Yeezy 1s for $1.8m at Sotheby’s. The sneakers were the first prototype of the collaboration between the sportswear giant and Ye (Kanye West), worn only once by the rapper during his performance at the 2008 Grammys. Rares then launched an IPO, allowing collectors to invest in fractional shares, at $15 per share.
More traditional collectors may struggle to understand the cultural significance – and commercial value – of sneakers, but there is plenty of cross-over between the collecting habits of fashionistas across generations. Gen Z collectors are also tapping into the investment potential of iconic fashion brands and timeless vintage pieces. Not only does this type of collecting align with their concern for sustainable fashion, they understand that such items can act as long-term assets. Ecommerce sites like Vestaire Collective (which positions itself as part of the “global fashion activist community”) have seen huge demand for classic handbags, such as Gucci Marmont, Fendi Baguette and Hermès Birkin.
Luxury watches are an eternally popular collecting category, and the big brands – Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet – have huge cross-generational appeal. As we noted in our watch market roundup, pre-owned is the fastest growing segment, and is expected to grow 8-10% annually from 2019-2025, according to the McKinsey State of Fashion Watches and Jewellery Report. It’s younger consumers who are driving this growth. A pre-owned watch is preferable to a new model for these collectors who prioritise sustainability, and who want the things they own to have a story. A vintage watch – alongside sneakers and handbags – is a must-have item of self-expression.
Like their parents and grandparents, the new generation of collectors appreciate the tradition and craftmanship of luxury timepieces, however they don’t necessarily want follow the traditional routes to acquiring them. They expect not only to be able to buy and sell watches online, but to enjoy the entire experience of collecting online as well. From finding inspiration to making connections and tracking prices, there are digital platforms to meet their needs. Hodinkee, which started as a blog in 2008, is now a huge content-and-commerce business. The vision for the platform is to be “a universe of watches,” according to Chief Executive Toby Bateman, interviewed in the McKinsey report. “It’s not just about commerce, and it’s not just about content; it’s also about the community,” he says. Another company which understands the importance of community is Subdial. The London-based start up is building marketplace for watch collectors and enthusiasts, underpinned by their market index technology. With pricing transparency, and returns beating other asset classes, watches are an obvious choice for savvy new investors.
The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new wave of art collectors. The IRL (In Real Life) barriers to entry were removed: inexperienced collectors were spared the intimidation of the auction room or the commercial gallery, and could browse and bid online. An Artsy report found that so-called “Next-Gen Collectors” (who had started collecting within the last 4 years), overwhelmingly opted for the digital experience, with 91% buying art online.
Yet the preference for digital is not reflected in the types of art that attract young collectors. Larry’s List, which surveyed 150 art collectors under 40, states: “We did not identify any young collectors who exclusively focus on digital art or multimedia; painting and sculptures are still the preferred media to collect.” This finding is corroborated by Art Basel & UBS’s The Art Market 2022 report, which found that digital artworks account for just 12% of the HNW Gen Z collections. These individuals are spending formidable amounts on traditional fine art, allocating over 30% of their wealth on this asset class.
When it comes to NFTs, Artsy reported that they remain niche, despite the hype over these digital assets in 2021. Only 9% of Next-Gen collectors had bought an NFT, and with the recent crash in cryptocurrencies, it seems unlikely that this number will grow anytime soon. NFT sales at the major auction houses – Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips and Bonhams – are just a fraction of what they were this time last year, at the height of the NFT craze. Young collectors who have followed the old rules about portfolio diversification will reap the rewards during what’s set to be a long crypto-winter.
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