Luxury from the eyes of young consumers: Exploring perceptions and tensions in luxury consumption

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Due to commoditization and wider availability of luxury goods and services, luxury consumption within younger generations has increased. The market for luxury goods is believed to grow rapidly in the near future, and young consumers in particular are believed to be an increasingly important target group for luxury in the future. Previous academic literature on luxury consumption has not focused particularly on studying young consumers’ luxury consumption behavior. This thesis examines how young consumers define luxury and how they consume luxury products and services. Furthermore, the aim of this research is to find out what kind of tensions may be associated with young consumers’ luxury consumption, and how these tensions are resolved. The empirical data for this study was collected by conducting semi-structured interviews. The target group of this research was 20–26-year-old master’s students at Aalto University School of Business. From the target group, eight students were selected as respondents for the interviews. Research data was analysed by using a data analysis method based on grounded theory. The results of the study indicate that young consumers define luxury in various different ways. The most familiar and closest form of luxury for the respondents was everyday luxury, which, due to its affordability and wider availability, offers young consumers an opportunity to consume something that brings them feelings of joy and pleasure. However, some of the interviewed university students also consumed so-called traditional luxury, which is perceived as exclusive, luxurious, and expensive. Based on the interviews, young consumers' motives for luxury consumption can be divided into three different categories: hedonic, social, and product-centric motives. Of these motives, hedonic and social motives emerged as the most important and clearly the most common motives. The findings indicate that luxury goods are consumed, for instance, to communicate one's identity and status, as well as for self-rewarding and the for the pursuit of well-being. The study also revealed that luxury consumption can cause various tensions for young consumers. These tensions occur in social situations where luxury consumption takes place in the presence of other people. The existence of these tensions can cause consumers to adapt their consumption behavior to match the particular social environment.
Thesis advisor
Gloukhovtsev, Alexei
luxury, luxury consumption, young consumers, consumer behavior