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High-end products in Europe: combining cultural heritage and economic growth

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European brands account for at least 70 % of the global high-end goods market. And while high-end products are usually associated with fashion, the sector consists of a wide range of products and services: cars, yachts, furniture, wines, spirits and more. The European Commission is committed to ensuring Europe’s high-end sector continues to thrive.

Europe’s high-end products industry is underpinned by a business model that melds cultural heritage and artistic brilliance. Famous all over the world, Europe’s high-end products provide a unique symbolic value and customer experience, and are a symbol of the European tradition for excellence and craftsmanship.

The high-end industry is a key contributor to the European economy. With an annual turnover of more than €400 billion, it represents up to 3 % of EU (non-financial) GDP and directly employs about 1 million people. What’s more, the industry accounts for 10 % of all European exports – an average of 62 % of all goods manufactured by European high-end brands are sold outside Europe.

Because reputation is such an asset in third country markets, the Commission recently introduced a proposal related to ‘origin marking’ of products. This would give a competitive edge to European high-end products in emerging markets.

Access to markets

As the European high-end industry relies heavily on exports, a level playing field and free access to emerging markets is crucial for the growth of this industry. Indeed, executives have identified trade protectionism – including steep taxes on high-end goods and strict visa regulations – as a primary obstacle to realising the industry’s true global potential.

The importance of regulatory convergence between markets has inspired the European Commission to continue working to strengthen dialogue with key partners, including Brazil, Russia, India, China, the US and Japan.

Intellectual property rights

The creativity, unique design and unparalleled quality of Europe’s high-end products are recognised around the globe by consumers, but also by counterfeiters. Many of these products are vulnerable to infringements of intellectual property rights. Counterfeit products are becoming more refined, and consumers are more likely to be misled, especially with a growing online market. In addition, while selective distribution enables the sector to maintain control over its distribution and retail, the number of counterfeit products increases drastically every year. This will undermine Europe's economic growth and employment.

As such, Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the EC and commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, has launched an awareness-raising campaign to fight counterfeit goods.

Tourism and high-end: interdependent sectors

While the high-end industry is itself an economic engine, it also has a positive spill-over effect on other sectors, such as tourism. Many tourists travel to Europe with the intention of purchasing a specific product from a specific brand. According to Tajani, this is especially true of fashion. ‘Fashion and tourism are two key sectors for Europe’s economy,’ Tajani said. ‘They are part of the solution to the continent’s growth agenda.’

Of course, it’s not just fashion. A recent study suggests that tourists account for up to 50 % of the purchases of personal high-end goods in the EU. To facilitate this market, the Commission will look into issuing multi-entry visas for tourists and business people.

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