Why do we buy luxury goods?

Well, reasons differ by culture says study

Luxury Bag

Ever noticed some people would happily pay a high premium for a product? For them, luxury items serve as status symbols. But are all luxury purchases driven by that motivation? And, do those motivations change with location?

University of Delaware researcher Jaehee Jung and her collaborators at universities in nine other countries tried to find an answer. Their study and its results were published recently in the journal, Psychology & Marketing.

Jung, an associate professor of fashion and apparel studies, and the others found that consumers in different countries purchase luxury goods for different reasons. “For luxury goods makers, it is critical to consider these motivations,” Jung said.

American consumers generally buy goods for self fulfillment, rather than to please others. The lead researcher arrived at the conclusion that Americans purchase luxury goods out of hedonism by surveying a number of American college students. Many responded positively to statements such as “pleasure is all that matters.” Factors including the quality of luxury items did not matter much for the students. “In Western cultures where individualism is valued, there is generally less pressure to fit in with groups, such as peers and co-workers, than in Eastern cultures where collectivism is valued,” Jung citied. Brazilian and Indian students perceived luxury in the same way because these cultures seem to ape the American way of life.

Germans are primarily obsessed with function, placing emphasis on quality standards over prestige, as do the Italians, Hungarians and Slovakians.

Conversely, students in France said that they value luxury items because of the high-price and exclusivity. French consumers responded positively to statements including: “true luxury products cannot be mass produced” and “few people own a true luxury product". "Many luxury goods originate in France,” Jung quoted. “Cultural heritage and pride might have made them feel luxury is not for everyone.”

Jung and her collaborators plan to keep exploring the motivations behind luxury purchases in the future.

EurekAlert!

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