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YU, ZEQUN (2013) Motivations for Chinese and

Japanese Young Female Consumers to Purchase

Luxury Fashion Products: A Cross-cultural Comparison.

[Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)]


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http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/end_user_agreement.pdf For more information, please contact eprints@nottingham.ac.uk University of Nottingham Motivations for Chinese and Japanese Young Female Consumers to Purchase Luxury Fashion Products: A Crosscultural Comparison By Zequn Yu A Dissertation Presented in Part Consideration for the Degree of MSc Marketing Abstract This dissertation aims to answer two main research questions. First, what are the luxury fashion product purchasing motivations of Chinese and Japanese young female consumers? Second, are there any similarities and differences between Chinese and Japanese in their motivations for buying luxury fashion items?

After reviewing the literature, a general framework combined the work of Veblen (1899), Lebenstein (1950), Vigneron and Johnson (1999, 2004), Wiedmann et al (2007) and other authors has been proposed to generalise the motivation themes discovered

by the current research. The framework includes four main motivations in the literature:

Functional value, Interpersonal/Social effects, Personal/Individual effects, and the financial value of the luxury products. Through the qualitative method, data was collected by the in-depth interview approach from eight Chinese and eight Japanese young female respondents aged from 24 to 35.

The main motivations identified reflect and support the academic theories in the literature. Respondents from Both China and Japan share four common motivations in purchasing luxury fashion product: for luxuries’ functional values (quality, uniqueness, durability), social effects (conspicuous consumption, prestige value, social group fit in), personal-oriented motivation (self-identity, Hedonic, Materialistic value) and financial value. Chinese people concerned more about the social effects and the brand reputation of luxury fashion branded items, while Japanese consumers seemed to be motivated stronger by their personal preferences, self–image representing and hedonic values.

Furthermore, the research discovers that Chinese and Japanese consumers have their own specific motives and considerations in purchasing luxuries. Chinese consumers would also be motivated by a desire to obtain better working or business opportunities, gain ‘face’ and improve relationships with other people, and enrich their lives through luxury consumption. For Japanese consumers, besides the main motivations, they would also consider whether the luxury brand represents their attitudes towards life, the customer services and the raw material of the product.

–  –  –

First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Caroline Tynan. I would always be thankful for her patience, guidance, wisdom and knowledge, more importantly her deep concern for me. It is an honour to be her student.

I would like to thank all the respondents in the interviews. I appreciate their patience during the in-depth interviews. Their insightful comments and views have helped me obtain rich data in this research.

I also want to thank my father and mother, when I encountered difficulties in the process of the research, when I was frustrated and disappointed to myself, they were always there to support and encourage me.

At last, I would like to thank my dearest friends in China and UK: Cindy, Grace, Jack and Kotoko. I am so grateful for their encouragement.

–  –  –

Contents Chapter 1 Introduction

1.1 Background Overview

1.2 Research Aims and Objectives

1.3 Structure of the Dissertation

Chapter 2 Literature Review

2.1 Background

2.2 Defining luxury products

2.3 Motivation towards Luxury Purchasing

2.3.1 Fundamental motivation framework

2.3.2 Further Studies on Luxury Purchasing Motivation

2.3.3 Specific motives in Chinese and Japanese Context

2.4 Conclusion

2.4.1 Gaps in the literature

2.4.2 Research Questions

Chapter 3 Methodology

3.1. Research paradigm

3.1.1 Justification for using Interpretivist approach

3.1.2 Justification for using qualitative research method

3.2. The Choice of Interview

3.3 Pilot Interview

3.4 Participants

3.4.1 Sampling Design

3.4.2 Respondents Demographics

3.5 Interview schedule

3.6 Data Capture

3.7 Data analysing technique

3.8 Conclusion

Chapter 4 Research Findings and Discussions

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Common Motivations of Chinese and Japanese respondents

4.2.1 Functional oriented motivation

4.2.2 Social/Interpersonal-oriented motivation

4.2.3 Individual/Personal-oriented motivation

4.2.4 Financial value-oriented motivation

4.3 Specific themes/motivations of Chinese respondents

4.4 Specific themes/motivations of Japanese respondents

Chapter 5 Conclusion and Implications

5.1 Overall Conclusion

5.2 Implications

5.2.1 Theoretical Implications

5.2.2 Managerial/Practical implications

5.3 Limitations

5.5 Further Research


Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Chapter 1 Introduction In this chapter, firstly a background overview would be provided including the luxury consumption in China and Japan. Secondly, the research aims and objectives would be explained, as well as the justifications of choosing the research topic. The final section describes the detailed structure of the dissertation.

1.1 Background Overview

Despite the economic recession since 2008, with the continuing high sales in emerging economies, the global luxury market has remained notable increases in recent years (Kastanakis & Balabanis, 2011). Figures show that in 2012, luxury product sales exceeded $302 billion globally, with a growth rate of 5% from 2011; the luxury consumers around the world spend more than $5.8 billion/week on luxury items (King, 2013). The globalisation, wealth-creation, emerging affluent market segments, and the international travel expansion are considered to be the main drivers for this growth (Chow, Fung &Ngo, 2001). Two significant trends in luxury consumers occur in recent years. Firstly, the luxury consumers are no longer limited to the traditional well-off elites in societies, but also including a new base of younger, well-paid, modern, and spendthrift people (Twitchell, 2003). Secondly, there is a shift in the dominant consumers from the Western countries to Asian countries including the relatively mature market such as Japan (Chadha & Husband, 2006), and new fast growing markets like China and India (Tynan, et al., 2010). The Asia is becoming one of the biggest luxury consumption markets in the world. As the Figure 1 displays below, the Japan, China, South Korea, and Hong Kong are among the world’s largest luxury sales markets.

Figure 1: Sales of luxury goods within countries/territories Source: The Economist, 2013 Figure 2: Luxury handbags market by consumer nationality from 1995 to 2012 Source: The Economist, 2013 With the continuing economic growth, as shown in Figure 2, luxury product sales in China are experiencing rapid growth. China is estimated to become the second largest luxury market after the US, reaching $35 billion with a growth rate of 6%-8% this year (The Economist, 2013). While the wealthier consumers (with annual incomes over 300,000RMB, about $46,000) would still account for the majority luxury consumption, researches show that the China’s upper middle class (with annual incomes between 100,000 and 200,000RMB) would generate a large opportunities for the luxury sector (McKinsey, 2011). In addition, In China, the female market is increasingly receiving attention as its large proportion in the luxury purchasing (Mckinsey, 2011). As their roles in society and families have been gradually changing since the 1980s, the Chinese females are able to receive higher education and becoming more independent (So & Stella, 2012). Their influences in the luxury consumption market are remarkable (So & Stella, 2012). Luxury brands and marketers are beginning to notice the trends and the size of this market, and re-evaluate marketing strategies in order to gain larger market shares (Sin, So, Yau and Kwong, 2001; Li, Li & Kambele, 2012).

As to Japan, consumers from this country are among the world’s biggest spenders (McKingsey, 2009). In 2012, sales of luxury goods were $25 billion, accounting for about 20% of the world luxury sales (McKingsey, 2012). Since the early 1980s, the rapid growing economic (the bubble years till the late 1980s) fuelled their enthusiastic in luxury consumption (McKingsey, 2009), with a ‘commonly held view’ that goods from Europe would have better quality, and owning European luxury products indicated the status, success and social acceptance (McKingsey, 2009). Even though the economic bubble burst in the 1990s, and Japan experienced nearly 10 years of economic recession, Japanese consumers still have high interests in the luxury branded goods (Chadha & Husband, 2006). It is argued that different from the Western society that luxuries are an indication of wealth, status, success, taste, or uniqueness, in Japan, owning luxury items represents the mainstream, and signifies the middle-class lifestyle (McKingsey, 2009).

Figures show that about 94% of Tokyo women in their twenties own a Louis Vuitton piece, 92% own Gucci, 57% own Prada, 51% own Chanel, etc. (Prasso and Brady, 2003).

1.2 Research Aims and Objectives

From a theoretical point of view, in previous studies, scholars like Veblen (1950), Vigneron & Johnson (1999, 2004), Wiedmann et al. (2007) have proposed a number of concepts which influence consumers’ perceived values, attitudes and purchasing intentions towards luxury products purchasing. These findings contribute to a general understanding of individuals’ motives for luxury consumption. However, either the earliest theories or the further developments were almost all based on the Western countries; little is known about the large and important Asian market (e.g., Japan and China). Buying similar luxury products does not necessarily mean the same purchase reasons; consumers from different cultures may have different motivations for buying luxury goods, therefore, the Western focused theories of luxury purchase motivations might not be applied to a Chinese or Japanese context, consumers from these countries might have their specific perceptions and reasons towards luxury consumption.

Tynan, et al. (2010) point out that ‘the appetite for luxury brands has grown particularly in the emerging Asian market such a China’. From a practical point of view, either the relative mature Japanese market or the emerging Chinese market has provided great opportunities for the luxury brands. In order to maximise the marketing share and compete with competitors, an understanding of the luxury purchasing motivation across China and Japan is important for the luxury fashion industry to develop tailored marketing strategies and better satisfy luxury consumers in these two nations.

This research aims to explore the Chinese and Japanese young female consumers’ motivations towards luxury purchasing. More specifically, two research questions are


(1) What are the motivations for young female consumers in China and Japan to purchase luxury fashion products?

(2) Are there any similarities and differences in what motivates consumers in China and Japan to purchase luxury products?

1.3 Structure of the Dissertation This dissertation contains five chapters. Firstly, the introduction chapter provides the research background, the research aims and objectives, justifications for the study, and the structure of the whole dissertation.

Chapter 2 presents the previous literature relating to the luxury purchase motivations.

It would firstly review the definitions of ‘luxury’, and indicate how luxury is viewed in this research. Then the theories and literature on motivations for consuming luxuries would be addressed in three parts: the earlier studies, the more recent developments and extensions, and the specific motivations of Chinese and Japanese consumers examined in the previous literature. The literature gap would be noted as the lack in research-based studies in Asian luxury consumers. Besides, a cross-cultural comparison is also needed in the literature. This chapter concludes with the research questions.

Chapter 3 outlines the methodology employed for conducting the research process. It identifies and justifies the interpretivism research paradigm and the qualitative procedure being adopted in gathering data from the in-depth interviewing, with respondents recruited by snowball and purposive sampling. Besides, the methodology chapter also outlines the interview schedules, the ethical considerations, as well as the choice of method to analyse the interview data.

Chapter 4 presents and discuss the findings. This chapter examines the common and distinct motivations of Chinese and Japanese respondents, as well as addressing the connections with the literature body.

The last chapter summarises the whole dissertation, and discusses the theoretical and managerial implications of the research. Finally, research limitations and further research directions are discussed.

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