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‘I can afford these products, but other may not’. (Chinese respondent 5) This indicates that some Chinese respondents have the desire to be different from others; therefore, they may be motivated by the perceived uniqueness and exclusivity values of luxury fashion branded goods. This supports the ‘snob’ motivation concept, as Tynan et al (2010) note that people want to be different, unique, and distinct from the masses. ‘Snob’ buyers are motivated by the exclusivity, rarity and inaccessibility (to the mass) of luxury products (i.e. uniqueness motivation). Consumers are usually motivated to buy luxury products based on wanting to feel superior and unique (Leibenstein, 1950;
Mason, 1981, 1995; Vigneron & Johnson, 1999).
4.2.3 Individual/Personal-oriented motivation Individual value (i.e. self-identity value, hedonic value and materialistic value) (Wiedmann et al., 2007; Tynan et al., 2010; etc.) implies that people purchase luxury products to achieve self-identity or to obtain emotional pleasure. This section demonstrates respondents’ individual/personal-oriented motivation when purchasing luxury fashion products. The focus of this theme is how the respondents will think and feel from purchasing a luxury fashion item. As Wiedmann et al (2007) summarised, there are generally three aspects in the personal-oriented motivation: Self-identity, Hedonic (Self-pleasing, selfrewarding, self-satisfaction), and materialistic value. According to the data collected, both Chinese and Japanese respondents were influenced by these aspects.
Image creation & Self-identity When deciding purchasing certain luxury fashion items, some Chinese respondents and most Japanese respondents emphasised that the ability of the brands or the products to express their personal style and desired image was very important. For example, some Chinese interviewees talked about the ‘Refinement and Elegance’ and ‘Personal taste’.
Similarly, Japanese interviewees indicated the ‘Brand concept’ (e.g. feminine, independent, elegant, romantic, lady, etc.), ‘Personal image building’, and ‘Personal taste’ in purchasing. They cared about whether the brand or the product could represent themselves and their attitudes of life. They expected the luxury fashion products could help to build and enhance the self-image.
‘My favourite luxury fashion brand is Chanel. I like the design of its products, and the brand history…the clothes, handbags, and accessories are so elegant…I think the products also have a little sense of masculine, which feels independent and brave…In my view, Chanel represents noble, classic, and self-cultivation. I feel confident when I wear Chanel, it represents my attitudes towards being a woman’. (Chinese respondent 1) ‘For Kate Spade, I like the design of its products, for me, they look pretty, feminine, but very independent’. (Japanese respondent 3) These views imply that respondents would be driven by an inner motivation that they want to use the products to express who they are, and how they perceive themselves.
Wiedman et al (2007) draw the value of self-identity in influencing individuals’ purchasing in luxury goods. Consumers would use luxury brands to indicate, support, and improve their own identity (Holt 1995; Vigneron and Johnson 2004).
Hedonic (Self-pleasing, self-rewarding, self-satisfaction) Almost all the participants from China and Japan point out that one significant motive for purchasing luxury fashion products is to reward and please themselves. They mentioned the reasons of ‘Feel’, ‘Pleasure seeking’ and ‘self-gifting/rewarding’ to buy luxuries, noting that they could obtain pleasure, happiness and satisfaction through
consumption. As Chinese respondent 7 said:
‘I bought a handbag from Mulberry for myself as a New Year gift for my hard working last year’.
(Chinese respondent 7) This means that respondents are also motivated by a desire to please themselves through the consumption of luxury goods, as these products may carry emotional values and could offer sensory happiness for individuals, apart from their physical or functional usability (Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; Vigneron & Johnson, 1999, 2004;
Wiedmann wt al., 2007; Tynan et al., 2010, etc.).
Materialistic Value Most participants felt satisfaction/positive emotions though owning luxury fashion products. Chinese respondents referred to ‘feel happy and satisfied’, while Japanese participants talked about ‘luxury lifestyle’, ‘enjoying’, etc. These phrases indicate that respondents could gain emotional benefits from the luxury and the feeling of owning items. These are attributed to the materialistic value brought by owning luxuries.
Wiedmann et al (2007) point out that the concept of materialism contains the meaning of individuals’ satisfaction through luxury possessions and acquisition.
4.2.4 Financial value-oriented motivation Most Chinese respondents held the view that the high price of luxury fashion products contained the intangible value of the brand reputation and awareness. Therefore, when they were willing to pay high prices for luxury items, what they actually paid was the
intangible value implied in the product. As Chinese respondent 6 expressed:
‘I think the ‘price’ and the ‘brand’ distinguish the high-end fashion and normal products. The brand reputation and awareness lead to the high price of products…I mean, if middle range brands (e.g. Radley) raise the price of a handbag to 10,000 RMB (about 1,000 pounds), I think it would generally become a luxury brand’. (Chinese respondent 6) Furthermore, when asking about whether they would choose a popular luxury fashion brand such as LV, Gucci, or less popular luxury fashion brand such as Mulberry, Celine in China, assuming their preference to each product was same, or they might personally like the product from less famous brand more, almost all the Chinese participant interviewed in this research answered they would prefer the item of the popular brand as ‘it worth the price more’. This indicates that the respondents valued higher of the intangible benefits brought by the brand.
As to Japanese respondents, although they agreed that high brand awareness and reputation could be the reasons of high prices, most of them concerned more about the
quality, design, and whether the product fitted their personal taste:
‘I prefer stuff from less well-known luxury fashion brands…I buy clothes that are really expensive, but I don’t really buy famous brand stuff. For me, I will not buy things just because of its brand, I don’t like that thinking’. (Japanese respondent 1) ‘I used to be more concerned about brands; I wanted to have clothes, shoes, or handbags from this brand, or that brand. I wanted to own stuff from very popular brands. However, now I am more into quality and product itself, if I like the design of certain luxury product, and it looks good on me, as long as I can afford it, I don’t care it is a famous luxury brand or not’. (Japanese respondent 8) These views imply that respondents would associate the positive link between the price and the quality of a certain product. Wiedmann et al (2007) and Tynan et al (2010) address the term ‘price value’, or the perceived financial value, as referring to that many consumers would perceive that the high prices of the luxury goods could accordingly mean that there products are of high quality as well. Therefore, consumers could be motivated by the high prices of luxury branded items as they perceive that the high prices indicate the excellent quality.
To summarise, these four main themes play the role as the basic and central influences to a consumer’s luxury purchasing motivations. The discussion above shows that both Chinese and Japanese respondents were motivated to buy luxuries for the themes identified in the literature body, which are: (1) attracted by the functional value, (2) achieving desired social/interpersonal effects, (c) realising desired personal effects, and (4) driven by the financial value. It is noticeable that for the main themes, although there are no obvious differences between the Chinese and Japanese respondents, they might perceive the same concept or theme in different ways. Besides, the level of influence could also be different; for example, Chinese respondents seemed to be motivated more by the social effects, while most Japanese respondents were mainly motivated by their personal desires. The specific themes of respondents from each country would be examined in following sections.
4.3 Specific themes/motivations of Chinese respondents
Firstly, almost all of the Chinese respondents considered that wearing luxury items could make the, look more professional, high grade, reliable, and successful. They would wear luxury fashion branded clothes, shoes, handbags in workplaces, believing this could lead to better business or working opportunities. As Chinese respondent 2
‘I do not consider myself as a rich woman, for me, it is not that easy to purchase whatever handbags or dresses I like…but sometimes I would still buy myself some luxury fashion branded stuff, because (1) I need to keep or remain at the same or similar level with my colleagues and clients, this would promote the communications and relationships with them; (2) I think wearing luxury fashion branded items could make me look professional, reliable, and confident, which could bring me opportunities in the work’. (Chinese respondent 2) As mentioned before in the literature review, Debnam & Svinos (2006) pointed out that a proportion of the middle class consumers in China can be motivated to buy luxury products to accomplish professional goals and lifting their social status. This specific theme matches the study in the literature.
Secondly, Chadha and Husband (2006) also note that Chinese consumers would purchase luxury products as gifts to others, as being motivated by an inner desire to improve his or her ‘face’. However, in this research finding, most Chinese respondent thought that luxury products made effective gifts not only for her own ‘face’, but also the function of the luxury product to effectively improve the relationship with others.
Thirdly, amongst the eight Chinese respondents, three of them mentioned the effects of the luxury products had on improving their relationships with others. Owning the luxury fashion branded goods might cause others to wish to be friends with them, as Chinese participant 6 said ‘when I began to buy and use handbags from Prada, Gucci, Burberry, Dior and other luxury brands, I have more friends than before…they think I have good taste or I am rich’. This theme has not been addressed in the previous literature in exploring Chinese consumers’ motivations towards luxury purchasing.
Fourthly, half of the Chinese respondents talked about reasons relating to ‘lifestyle enrichment’ of luxury fashion product consumption. They believed that consuming luxuries improved the quality of their living standard. This theme has not been addressed in the literature as well.
4.4 Specific themes/motivations of Japanese respondents
Firstly, most Japanese respondents appreciated the concepts or the spirits contained by certain brand, and were motivated to purchase stuff from the brand as its ability to express their attitudes towards life. Besides, most of them noted they did not want to follow ‘short-term trends’, as designs of luxuries were usually classic and lasted longer, they would then be motivated to purchase them. This theme could be classified as the individual/personal-oriented motivation. Secondly, some Japanese participants mentioned that they might be motivated to buy luxury products because of the good customer services and in-store experiences. When Japanese respondent 7 described her previous shopping experience, ‘when I am shopping at the luxury fashion brand shops, customer services are very important factor’. Thirdly, when answering the question about making a decision to buy a luxury fashion product (e.g., a Dior handbag), two of the eight Japanese respondents said they also considered the raw material of the product: ‘if the material is of good quality and worth the price’, and ‘if the material is sustainable’.
4.5 Conclusion The main themes identified reflect and support the academic theories in the literature relating to luxury consumption. From comparing and contrasting the common and other themes and motivations towards luxury purchasing of Chinese and Japanese respondents, it can be seen that the young females from the two countries share some similarities in their reasons to purchase luxury fashion products, such as for luxuries’ functional values (quality, uniqueness, durability), social effects (conspicuous consumption, prestige value, social group fit in), personal-oriented motivation (selfidentity, Hedonic, Materialistic value) and financial value. However, it is obvious that Chinese people concerned more about the social effects (whether the product could show their taste, indicate their status and wealth) 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. Besides, some Japanese respondents considered social groups to be very important, therefore, group conformity could be one important social motivation for Japanese people.
Furthermore, 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.
Chapter 5 Conclusion and Implications The Asian market is becoming increasingly important and attractive for the luxury sector.
For the topic relating to motivations of luxury consumption, the literature review chapter discovered the gaps existing for research-based luxury purchasing of Asian consumers.
Besides, the previous literature did not draw much attention on cross-culture comparisons.