The most valued luxury, according to a recent survey, is something most of us crave: time. That's just one of the findings of a report released by the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board.
All around the world, luxury consumers have similar definitions of luxury. Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center says that "The largest share of luxury consumers (44%) and the largest share of consumers in each country most strongly agree that 'luxury is having enough time to do whatever you want and being able to afford it.' So, for luxury consumers worldwide, time is the ultimate luxury."
What do people want besides time? Life experiences, followed by comfort, beauty and quality. No surprise then that travel is one of the most valued pursuits, second only to "high-tech" activities such as using a personal computer and other gadgets. As we saw with another survey recently,
when luxury consumers collect things they often by things that might be an investment such as collections of antiques and rare items; original art, paintings and sculpture and a vacation/second home. Other prized collections include watches and jewelry, fine wine and musical instruments.
The differences across cultures were not too surprising. Americans are most interested in television, pets, fitness and electronics. British consumers are interested in Internet and cell phone usage, videos/DVDs, wine and gourmet goods among other things. Germans enjoy reading books, attending cultural events, gardening, and home furnishings. Italian consumers share many of the same interests as those in Germany, but they are more active in travel. French consumers are also similar but with a bigger interest in in gourmet food and wine. China has the greatest interest in photography, electronics, and home furnishings.
What is the definition of luxury for those who are dubbed luxury consumers? For most luxury is defined as being noticeably a cut above the average. The cost is not as important as the experience and feelings that consumers get in enjoying their luxury lifestyles.. Luxury is being able to pursue one's personal passions and interests. For most luxury is not about conspicuous consumption although they do look to a brand's reputation as a sign of quality. It is no surprise that the only country in which a large part (46%) of consumers believe luxury is defined by the brand is China.
And attitudes toward brands are shifting. A new book set to come out, Deluxe by Dana Thomas
, which features fast food wrapped with Prada labels on the cover, takes on the idea of modern luxury. She profiles the European fashion houses which have evolved from companies known only to the elite few, to monster brands that sell to millions. It makes me wonder if the rise in "masstige," selling luxury to the masses, might be the very thing that compromises the luxury goods market.