ly MacGregor, like plenty of people, loves buying gifts. She buys them for birthdays, baby showers, holidays and even for friends at work. But most people don’t bestow presents of the type — and size — that MacGregor does.
When it comes to the gifts they give, the rich are in a category of their own.
Last year, MacGregor, president of London-based public relations firm Reicura, took her Toronto-based mother to a Napa Valley, California, winery for her 50th birthday. Not an uncommon splurge gift, to be sure. But MacGregor got the winery, which doesn’t give tours, to open for her and her mother and provide on-site meals and extensive wine tasting.
“We got to see how the wine was made and at the end of it she got a taster made from grapes from her birth year,” she said. “It was really special.”
She won’t reveal how much the jaunt cost, merely saying it was a “pretty penny.”
How did she pull this off? As the old saying goes, money talks.
Considered an ultra-high-net-worth individual — her family has more than $30m in assets — money isn’t much of a consideration for MacGregor when it comes to buying just-right gifts.
The wealthy, like the rest of us, want to surprise their family and friends with thoughtful presents at holidays and big milestones. But when it comes to the gifts they give, the rich are in a category of their own.
Going big, and experiential
When you have dollars at your disposal, it’s easy to buy anything at the store, so an experiential gift shows thought and appreciation. MacGregor, for instance, prefers to buy experiences, she said. They are more meaningful, and, she said, more thought has to go into the gift.
This year she took her sister to New York City for a Sex and the City-themed birthday vacation. The experience featured less shopping than in the hit US show, but plenty of eating at restaurants highlighted in the programme, she said.)
For her 27th birthday, MacGregor’s mother took her to Muskoka, Ontario, a ritzy cottage town two hours north of Toronto, where they stayed in a friend’s “extravagant” cottage where they ate meals prepared by an on-call chef.
Other rich people, though, do spend tens or hundreds of thousands on cars, jewellery and other items as presents for people in their lives. For instance, Neiman Marcus, a Dallas, Texas-based luxury department store’s annual Christmas book, includes presents that only the most moneyed individuals can afford.
This year, the company is selling a 100th anniversary Neiman Marcus Limited-Edition Maserati Ghibli Q4 for $95,000. So far it’s sold 49 cars said Ginger Reeder, Neiman Marcus’ vice-president of communications, adding that the cars are always the best sellers.
The catalogue also offers a trip to Germany where the buyer will visit with jewellery designer Monica Rich Kosann and, together, create a one-of-a-kind locket. That gift sells for $100,000, and so far one trip has been purchased, said Reeder.
People can also buy a Vilebrequin Quadski — half jet ski, half all-terrain vehicle — for $50,000. While none have officially sold, a sale is pending, said Reeder, who is also in charge of finding the fantasy gifts—items Neiman Marcus specifically highlights as the ultimate in special present.
Another of the catalogue’s “fantasy gifts,” is a make-your-own fragrance experience.
The $475,000 price tag includes two first-class tickets to Paris, dinner with famous perfume maker Olivier Creed, car service, private tours and more. Six months after the trip, the buyer will receive their perfume in 24 14-karat gold-gilded six-litre falcons and 12 14-karat gold-accented leather atomizers.
For many of these ultra-luxurious gifts, only one item is available. In 2012, Neiman Marcus offered one walk-on role in the Broadway production of Annie for $30,000. It was purchased by someone who wanted to do something special for his wife’s 65th birthday, said Reeder.
The most expensive gift ever sold was a Neiman Marcus edition Bell Helicopter, which went for $6.7m in 2001. The gift that sold the most was Jeff Koons’ Dom Perignon Balloon Venus — 75 of them were purchased in 2013 for $20,000 each.
Cars, horses, jewellery, oh my
Of course, when you have money, you don’t have to do the gift buying yourself. Ari Zoldan, the CEO of Quantum Networks, a New York-based wireless technology company, said that many of his friends send their personal assistants on shopping quests to Hermes, Mercedes and other luxury retailers.
Zoldan didn’t want to discuss his own personal spending, but was willing to talk about how friends in his peer group spend.
When you’re rich, gifts know few bounds. Among the presents Zoldan said his friends have purchased: A Lamborghini for a girlfriend, a show horse for a loved one and a romantic getaway to Richard Branson’s Necker Island, where resort room prices start at about $30,000 a night.
Global Blue, a Switzerland-based company that facilitates tax-free shopping in a number of countries, also tracks luxury spending (purchases of items that cost 200 euros ($256) or more). The company works with more than 270,000 retailers in 43 countries, including parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
So far in 2014, the Chinese have been the biggest shoppers, according to Global Blue. A Chinese traveller spent 20.7m euros ($26.5m), at one time, in Singapore. Someone from Indonesia made the second-biggest purchase, also in Singapore, spending 12m euros ($15m). (The company doesn’t track the spending habits of people in their home countries.)
There, are, of course, regional variations in how people approach spending. MacGregor has wealthy friends in Europe, America and Canada and finds that Europeans are looking for high quality, yet expensive, items, such as a fine wine. Her American friends are far showier. They want the Ferrari they can race down the street. Canadians are somewhere in between, she said. Zoldan sees a similar pattern among his friends.
Digging for deals
The world’s wealthiest can afford almost anything, said Reeder. But most aren’t buying these pricey presents on an impulse, she said.
That wasn’t always the case. People used to spend more freely, Reeder said, but since the 2008 global recession, buyers are looking for specific items and special experiences.
The rich “want to be more careful with what they buy,” she said, “They want to purchase the perfect gift, rather than just an expensive one.”
The wealthy also don’t stay rich by squandering their money. They like a deal as much as the rest of us, said Zoldan.
Most of his friends spend between $30,000 and $300,000 on individual gifts, but are thrilled if they can save a few thousand dollars on a present. The rest of us scrounge for coupons or frequent deal websites or wait for sales, but the wealthy get discounts by working with personal shoppers who have a connection with a store, or by negotiating with shop managers directly if they’re picking up the item themselves.
While a $2,000 discount won’t make a difference to someone spending $50,000, Zoldan said his circle of friends get a kick out of “bargain” hunting.
“It’s partly for the thrill of it,” he said. “They want the opportunity to play in the race and have competitive advantages.”
While there are a lot of expensive toys for people to choose from, sometimes, the wealthy run into a problem the rest of us don’t face: What do you get the person who can afford anything?
That’s what’s MacGregor is asking herself now. Her father’s birthday is coming up and she has no idea what to get for him. “He has everything he could ever want and then some,” she said. “The best gift for him would be a grandchild, but that’s not happening.”
Source: BBC Capital