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The rise of flash robs and NFT craze among celebrities

From athletes investing in a pre-owned luxury watch marketplace, to increase in robbery gangs in the US, a summary of news from the world of luxury this past week

Paris Hilton is backing a $300 million organisation that aims to take the boom in digital art to the next level.
Paris Hilton is backing a $300 million organisation that aims to take the boom in digital art to the next level. (REUTERS)

US retailers are adding security and locking up goods after flash mob heists involving dozens of thieves at once stunned luxury stores in the San Francisco area and beyond, as the holiday shopping season opens, reports AFP. Last weekend, around 80 masked people in 25 cars raided a high-end Nordstrom department store, plundering its first-floor luxury goods counters in just a few minutes before fleeing. 

Also read: The world is back to overspending on luxury

That took place one day after 40 people drove up and swarmed a Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco’s Union Square, emptying its shelves in seconds before jumping in cars to speed away. Near Chicago, also hit by a series of similar thefts, a gang of 14 crooks swept into a Louis Vuitton store, snatching over $100,000 worth of luxury bags and garments. It was the third such attack on a Chicago-area Vuitton outlet in a month. Retailers around the country are taking precautions against possible copycat hits as the sheer size of the robbery gangs and their ability to plan secretly have made them nearly impossible to halt. Flash mob thefts, also dubbed “flash robs”, have been around for years, but have accelerated this year, besetting owners of small pharmacies, mid-level chain clothing stores and top-end luxury goods alike.

Athletes boost WatchBox

Pre-owned luxury watch marketplace WatchBox raised $165 million of equity capital, taking its valuation to nearly $1 billion this week. Among the investors were NBA star Michael Jordan, Milwaukee Bucks star and reigning championship MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks owner Marc Lasry, Phoenix Suns stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker, and Wall Street investor Bill Ackman. WatchBox, founded in 2017, has reported an increase in sales by 40% year over year. Co-founder and chief executive officer Justin Reis told Reuters that sales had gone up in all markets, led by Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and A. Lange & Sohne. Analysts estimate the market for second-hand luxury watches to be worth $20 billion and say it is growing faster than the primary market.

Paris Hilton ‘obsessed’ with NFTs

Paris Hilton is “obsessed” with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and now she’s backing a $300 million organisation that aims to take the boom in digital art to the next level.

Origyn, a Swiss foundation that offers smartphone users a way to authenticate objects of value with digital certificates, has raised $20 million from investors including Hilton and Bill Ackman’s Table Management this week. The technology, offered by the nonprofit foundation, deploys recognition and identification techniques created by experts. “I launched my first NFT drop in March 2020, and have been obsessed with NFTs and the never-ending possibilities of this technology ever since,” Hilton said in an email to Bloomberg News. “NFTs are the future for creators, creatives and collectors, and this is just the beginning.” The certification platform was founded in October 2020 on the blockchain Internet Computer to generate digital value for art, collectibles, digital media and luxury goods.

Also read: What luxury means in 2021

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