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November 23, 2009

Her Imperial Command

By Spear's

Some traits are clearly genetically inherited: dark eyes and male pattern baldness instantly come to mind. But entrepreneurialism? Is there a race of shopkeepers somewhere? (Napoleon certainly thought so, but he got an ’F’ in his genetics class.)

Some traits are clearly genetically inherited: dark eyes and male pattern baldness instantly come to mind. But entrepreneurialism? Is there a race of shopkeepers somewhere? (Napoleon certainly thought so, but he got an ‘F’ in his genetics class.)

Elizabeth Sieff, a 29-year old former head-hunter, is the living proof: she is the great-great-granddaughter of the Marks in Marks & Spencer. Now she is dipping her toe into the lake of recession chic. She and her partner Rebecca Masri have launched the Little Emperors privilege card, which provides the bearer with discounts at a stupendously high-end range of places: restaurants like Alloro, Daphne’s, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Ivy; shops like Cartier, Harrods and Smythson; and hotels like the Ritz, London, le Bristol, Paris, and the whole Leading Hotels of the World group. Discounts are not slight either: they can reach 50 per cent.

Elizabeth thought that her card would be beneficial both to bonus-strapped consumers suffering luxury withdrawal and businesses feeling the pinch of recession-era over-capacity, whether that means empty tables on a Monday evening or empty suites over the weekend.

‘People who were used to living a cosy lifestyle, not thinking about what they were spending, suddenly became very aware of what they were spending their money on,’ she says. ‘We came up with this idea to do a membership club that could allow institutions to discount without hurting their brand value.’ Her scheme, by reaching a critical mass of luxury businesses, has avoided the danger of having certain ones stand out as if desperate.

The card is both stimulator of and responder to a desire for discounts: ‘Who wants to pay top dollar for anything any more? A lot of the retailers we’ve spoken to have said that actually people are asking for discounts, and it puts them in a very awkward position. But if someone can legitimately take a discount, it makes their lives a lot easier.’ Membership will be capped at 5,000 and the founders’ fee is £575.

And those refuseniks who felt that discounts were infra dig soon came crawling back: ‘There were a couple that initially said no, then a couple of months later came back and said, Is the offer still open? That was a great feeling!’

Sounds like we should all be hoping that the recession continues for some time.

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