Luxury mobile handset maker Vertu is set to launch an exclusive suite of mobile services in Japan this year. Vertu, owned by Finnish cellphone giant Nokia, said it will offer its customers high-end amenities, including a special, members-only concierge service called "Club Vertu." Details of what's included in this service are still unknown. Vertu, which targets the highest echelon of consumers, is known for crafting gold-plated and diamond-encrusted handhelds.
You'd think catering to the luxury market would be a low priority for Nokia, whose fourth-quarter sales dropped 19 precent from a year earlier to $16.5 billion. But sales of the most opulent goods appear to be recession-proof. According to a 2008 worldwide luxury goods study by Bain & Co., "accessible" brands, or brands that are characterized by affordability, status, and membership, such as Coach and Ralph Lauren, were flat in 2008. On the other hand, "Absolute" luxury brands, or brands that attract the most affluent global consumers with their elitism and brand heritage, remain "truly resilient." These brands, such as Hermes and Loro Piana, were up 8 percent in 2008.
"Meeting the needs of customers in this segment requires a specialized approach," said Tagore Ramoutar, director of business development for Japan & Korea, at Vertu. "Vertu users the world over are discerning individuals who are willing to pay a premium for the right experience. Our success relies on delivering a world class experience that is unmatched."
Vertu says its premium service rollout will be supported by its hosted mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO solution, enabling the company to introduce value-added services without investing in its own software, equipment, people, and skills. The UK-based company said the deal would minimize its risk and allow the hardware company to focus on marketing and sales efforts.
When consumers buy a Vertu mobile phone, they receive a free concierge service called "Vertu Concierge" for one year. The service is accessed through a special button, the "Concierge key," located on the side of the handset. It will automatically dial the number of a dedicated personal assistant offering a number of services, including booking tee times or reserving a table at their favorite restaurant.