Attitudes Towards the Concept of Luxury: an Exploratory Analysis by Bernard Dubois and Gilles Laurent
Attitudes Towards the Concept of Luxury: an Exploratory Analysis Bernard Dubois, Groupe H.E.C. Gilles Laurent, Groupe H.E.C.
[ to cite ]:
Bernard Dub ois and Gilles Laurent (1994) ,"Attitudes Towards the Concept of Luxury: an Exploratory Analysis", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Joseph A. Cote and Siew Meng Leong, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 273-278. Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1994 Pages 273-278
ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE CONCEPT OF LUXURY: AN EXPLORATORY ANALYSIS Bernard Dubois, Groupe H.E.C. Gilles Laurent, Groupe H.E.C. Even though recent years have not been extremely favorable for the luxury industry (the ComitT Colbert which includes many prestigious French names - Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, etc... - reports a 1.5% increase in real terms for 1993), its growth rate, considered over a longer period, remains impressive. Colbert companies have more than doubled their sales over the last eight years (ComitT Colbert, 1991, 1993). In 1993, they achieved a global turnover of about USD 5.5 billion. The Pacific Rim countries represented 28% of that amount (21.6% in 1988), equally divided between Japan and the other Asian countries. Interestingly enough, however, such growth in demand has not been matched by an equivalent progress in consumer research and what was estimated by McKinsey (in 1990) to be a USD 60 billion market largely remains unexplored territory (McKinsey, 1991). Some studies obviously have been conducted and published in the past but they tended to focus on relatively narrow aspects. For example, the consumption habits of the affluent have been investigated regularly since Veblen's seminal work (Veblen, 1899) and, today, anecdotal reports (Stanley, 1988, 1991) as well as in-depth monographies of specific segments such as upper class wasps (Hirschman, 1988) or nouveaux-riches (LaBarbera, 1988) are available. Limiting the investigation of the luxury market to the analysis of privileged consumers however would fail to recognize that, under the influence of diffusion strategies adopted by many luxury goods companies (for brands such as Dior or Yves Saint-Laurent, accessories may represent up to two thirds of their sales), today's demand for luxury goods primarily consists of "ordinary" consumers who, from time to time, transform their desire to acquire a luxury item into reality. Similary, a few studies have been published on luxury brands, for instance on issues such as their relative positions in people's mind (Dubois and Duquesne, 1993 ; Weber and Dubois, forthcoming) or their adopters' characteristics (Andrus, Silver and Johnson, 1986) but many luxury goods (houses, diamonds, furniture, etc...) belong to product categories where branding is not a salient dimension, while, at the same time, a few brands (such as FabergT) which were in the past considered as luxury names seem to have lost their affiliation to the luxury world, usually because they have overdiffused their products. Finally, some research has also been published on the determinants of the acquisition of luxury products, emphasizing economic (Leibenstein, 1950 ; Mason, 1981) socio-demographic (Dubois and Laurent, 1993) or cultural aspects (Dubois and Duquesne, 1993 ; Mason 1993) but no overall conceptual scheme, model or theory has been developed yet. Paradoxically, one of the untapped research areas concerns the very nature of perceptions and attitudes attached to the word "luxury" itself. This is somewhat surprising because even casual conversations reveal that the word "luxury" evokes rather strong connotations among people. Some attach to it very positive feelings while others are quick to express their disdain, but few are left indifferent. The absence of research on the word "luxury" also is unfortunate because, in several product...