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From January, MBA students at London Business School will be able to follow an elective track in luxury management, alongside the more traditional tracks such as finance. The move follows an accord between the business school and Walpole British Luxury, the not-for-profit organisation that spearheads the interests of the British luxury industry.
Degrees in luxury goods, as well as degree tracks and executive short courses, have been popular in France for many years, in schools such as Essec and HEC. In Italy, SDA Bocconi, in Milan, launched a track in Luxury Business Management in 2011 with Bulgari.
Mark Henderson, chairman of Gieves and Hawkes, the Savile Row bespoke tailor, says that the British appreciation of luxury companies has changed dramatically in recent years. “The luxury sector has gone from something that Brits thought we were not that great at, to a realisation over the past 10 years that we are world-class.”
Walpole represents 180 luxury brands including Harrods, Claridges, Jimmy Choo, Burberry and Asprey – the Financial Times and Gieves and Hawkes are also members. LBS is the only educational luxury brand in the group.
Just 12 students a year will be selected to take part in the luxury management stream, which will include lectures, a project and seminars with some of the leading practitioners in the field. The numbers are limited to help create a real dialogue in the group, says Mr Henderson. “If you make this big open lectures, the value diminishes . . . We want to make sure we do it in a quality way. Luxury is a limited supply, so there is something appropriate in keeping it small and perfectly formed.”
Mr Henderson believes the stream will produce graduates of real appeal to Walpole members, who traditionally employ and promote employees from within the sector. “One of the beauties of MBAs and EMBAs is that they come from different sectors,” he says.
LBS dean Andrew Likierman agrees. “This is a specialisation in the programme that will enable them [MBAs] to vault the barriers that the industry puts in the way.” He goes on to say that the electives are designed to take advantage of LBS’s London location. “This is something that is using the City and contributing to the City.”