Industry Boom Boosts Appeal of Luxury Management MBAs

Studying a focused curriculum tailored to the luxury sector can make you a strong candidate for management positions in luxury companies

The luxury industry has enjoyed an extraordinary boom after Covid lockdowns in 2020, raising its relative attractiveness as a specialization on MBA programs. Several of the world’s leading business schools offer specialized MBA programs in luxury brand management, or elective options, which offer a focused curriculum tailored to the luxury sector. 

Those include ESSEC Business School near Paris, Columbia Business School in New York, and Bologna Business School in northern Italy.

These niche MBA programs equip students with in-depth knowledge about luxury brands, consumer behavior, luxury marketing, supply chain management, retail strategies, and other relevant areas specific to the luxury industry. 

And they have been given a boost by the recent run of good fortune for luxury companies such as LVMH, which became the first in Europe to cross the $500bn market valuation threshold this year.

The industry has rebounded strongly from the pandemic lockdowns, with sales of personal luxury goods, luxury cars, luxury hospitality, fine wines and other market segments through the roof. That has translated into an increase in job opportunities in the sector, while the skills developed during a luxury management MBA are often transferable to other industries as well.

The specialized education and industry exposure gained through a luxury management MBA can help you develop the skills and knowledge needed to take on leadership roles in luxury brands, retail companies, hospitality firms, luxury consulting firms, or even start your own luxury venture.

A fashion and luxury MBA in New York City

New York University’s Stern School of Business is the first and only US business school to offer an MBA dedicated exclusively to fashion and luxury. The program allows students to graduate after having attained deep exposure into the fashion, beauty, luxury and retail sectors. 

The 52-credit curriculum is completed in one-year (May to May) and entails four major components: it builds foundational business acumen, specialized industry knowledge, connections with iconic brands, and elective courses to tailor the degree to specific career goals.

This specialized knowledge can enhance your understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities in the luxury sector. “In many ways luxury managers are dealing with concerns that are impacting most industries – inflation, climate change, supply chain challenges, technology disruption,” says Professor Thomaï Serdari, academic director of the Fashion and Luxury MBA Program at NYU Stern.

“However, luxury managers are concerned with two additional challenges: how to solve for the aforementioned threats while also maintaining and increasing brand equity; and how to anticipate consumer behavior, and specifically needs of their high-end clientele, to design strategies that propel their respective brands ahead of the competition,” she explains.

Stern is far from the only business school around the world offering a luxury management MBA. “Students in our MBA program can focus on luxury during part of the customizable phase of their studies by choosing our luxury-focused electives,” explains Sara Vanos, executive director of marketing and admissions for MBA programs at HEC Paris, the French business school. 

Current electives include Tech-Powered Luxury, which explores China’s impact on luxury, the omnichannel challenge and opportunity for brands, as well as the role of influencers in the sector.

These electives have proved popular, as they can provide a pathway for career advancement within the luxury industry. “Demand has remained stable, but we have seen more roles being made available, with 8 percent of the Class of 2022 securing employment in the retail and luxury sector,” Vanos says.

Emerging markets offer bright career opportunities in luxury

It is a similar story at SDA Bocconi School of Management, based in Milan. Vittoria Veronesi, the incoming coordinator of the MBA Concentration in Luxury Business Management, says the content allows students to adopt a holistic view of the luxury industry.

At the same time, students develop a deep understanding of various sectors within luxury, such as fashion and apparel, accessories, fragrance and cosmetics, wines and spirits, jewelry and watches, automobiles, as well as travel and hospitality.

In addition to these market segments, she says that specific regions of the world offer the brightest career opportunities for graduates of MBA programs in luxury management. “Emerging markets for sure offer more opportunities to learn, grow and fully capitalize on the MBA education. In particular, luxury experiences -- meaning beverages, wellness, travel, entertainment -- are becoming more structured and appealing for candidates,” Veronesi says.

Back at Stern in New York, career outcomes for graduates of the Fashion and Luxury MBA Program have remained bright as well. “Since the program launched, employment rates have jumped to 94 percent three months after graduation. These outcomes speak to the industry demand for MBA talent with the specialized knowledge and skills,” says Serdari. 

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