Despite its economic troubles the United States has more affluent people than any other country and New Zealand should target them, says American consumer expert Pam Danziger.
"For Americans New Zealand products are really a blank slate and you can be anything you want to be and you have this one powerful attribute that really resonates with Americans - and that's [being] new," Danziger said.
Danziger, founder of Pennsylvania-based market research company Unity Marketing, is visiting the country with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for a series of workshops and seminars to give companies an insight into the American affluent consumer market.
The top 20 per cent of households in the US earned more than US$100,000 ($120,000) a year and accounted for at least 40 per cent of consumer spending.
"There are more affluent [people]," she said.
"We may not be growing as fast as China, for example, but we certainly are the biggest so it's really an important market for everybody who's thinking seriously about luxury."
Workshops and seminars are being held today in Auckland and next week in Blenheim and Christchurch, including the areas of apparel, gourmet food and wine.
Product awareness was overall relatively low but New Zealand ranked among the top 25 countries as a source of luxury, Danziger said.
"It's poised to become a player and a respected player."
Key elements of a luxury brand included superior performance, craftsmanship, exclusivity, innovation, design, relevance, heritage and responsibility.
New Zealand companies needed to tell their story in a way that resonated with consumers.
Television shopping was a powerful way of communicating specialty products to a wide audience, social media and the internet were powerful sources, while advertisements were becoming less important, Danziger said.
"Because really, an advertisement, it's one page and it's one impression and it's gone," she said.
"I know that the shopping channels, they go to Ireland, they go to Italy, why shouldn't they come to New Zealand?"
The US was a highly competitive market.
"You can't just try it once and then give up ... you have to put some real muscle behind it and communicate and communicate and communicate."
Fiona Terry, co-founder of Auckland-based natural bodycare products company Kio Kio, will be at today's event.
The company launched in the US last year and was selling into some of the country's top aspirational lifestyle stores, Terry said.
America tended to be the barometer for trends and ideas, she said.
"We had decided to target America because we felt that, as a luxury eco-chic brand, if we could make some noise in America that would filter through to our aspirations in other countries."
The company has an American agent.
"Although Americans are very open to new ideas and do have this interest in New Zealand, I think having a local on the ground who understands what sort of stores you want to be in and how to deal with those retailers and how to smooth the way has been critical."
Companies interested in attending the events should email: USAffluentConsumers@nzte.govt.nz