Exclusivity as a Luxury Commodity: The Business of Membership Clubs

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The basic law of supply and demand is the scarcer the supply, the higher the price a commodity could fetch especially if it’s in demand. For this reason, cunning entrepreneurs from time to time resort to creating artificial scarcity. It means controlling the supply so that consumers will be willing to pay a higher price to access it.

This does not only apply to basic commodities and goods. A time-tested and consistently performing marketing strategy is to market exclusivity. This is done in the form of membership clubs, by-invitation-only shows, and product exhibits open only to a limited few. Some club memberships have become symbols in an individual’s career or social status, an invitation from one similar to the presentation of military challenge coins given only to those who have already proven their worth.

The appeal of a membership club is not only a matter of privacy. While people do like exclusivity because it means only a few people could access these spaces, and thus provide some level of privacy in a shared space, mingling with club members would also be beneficial. No one could easily join these clubs, in most cases the applicants needing at least two referrals from good-standing members. In some cases even, applications are not accepted and only members could refer someone. And these referred individuals would still be evaluated by a screening team before admission. All the potential members, therefore, would have to be well-connected.

Many of these clubs, like the Soho House, are exclusive to members of a particular industry. So ‘bumping into each other’ in any of the club’s houses around the world is a good opportunity for collaborations and linkages.

As opposed to the generic features of a hotel, a club’s houses often offer the comforts of a home, but with the services of a luxury hotel. Starting a club is not very easy as the founding members will have to be prestigious enough to warrant the interest of people. But aside from rubbing elbows with the who’s who of society, what are the members really paying for when they get exclusive access to the club’s homes around the world?

A relaxing bedroom

At the end of the day, even the richest or most powerful person on earth would want to have a good sleep, free from disturbance. Members would expect the convenience of having a bedroom just like what they would have at home, maintained without having to pay for a full army of housekeepers.

Good food

Membership clubs are not limited to offering common houses across the globe. There are also clubs that offer exclusive access to luxurious restaurants and bars. While some of these are partly open to non-members, there are still those that are very exclusive and would not even admit guests unless an approval committee allows them in.

Convenient transportation

Not knowing how to navigate a place will waste time. Members who are traveling for work would want to get to their destinations as efficiently as possible. Not all clubs have their own chauffeured rides, but those will have access to these services.

Comfortable spaces to work in

Again, the clientele would not be plain tourists. Hotels usually have a desk where guests could work on. But clubs offer ‘homes’ so they shouldn’t force members to work from their bedrooms. On top of the houses, there are clubs that offer work and meeting areas in different parts of the world, still for the exclusive use of members.

Exclusive experiences

Exclusive experiences

Clubs offer high-class entertainment exclusive for members. Some examples of these are a night of chamber music held at any of the club’s owned venues, a full-course dinner by a famous chef, and even an exclusive fashion show by a local designer. These are not automatically free to members. On top of the membership fee, they will have to pay for these events, so they have to be worth the money.

The atmosphere

It’s not a generic hotel or bar members want to experience. Needless to say, the spaces offered by these clubs are often styled by famous interior designers. They are even adorned with rare artworks not available to public viewing.

In truth, any establishment could offer all of these. But not all establishments could boast of a king of a country having stayed with them, or of popular writers and entertainers hanging out in their bars. The high fees for these clubs are not really for their amenities, although they have to be top class as well, what with the caliber of their clientele. What the members are paying for is actually the association with the rich and the powerful, the recognition that they belong to this tier in society.

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