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Luxury Leather Product in the UK



Luxury Leather Product in the UK

Introduction and Rationale

Young adults normally undergo a complex and transient period characterized by swift cognitive, social and biological growth (Hwang & Kandampully 2012; Silverstein & Fiske 2003). In addition, young adults normally experience contradicting ideologies as they seek to develop an individual identity and connect with their peers at the same time (Atwal & Williams 2009). Unsurprisingly, transitory periods are normally connected to the desire to test a wide range of products/services to make the transition easy. Little is known regarding the spending motivations of young adults. A decade ago, young people were not considered economically significant (Bendell & Kleanthous 2007).

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Times have changed and young people are considered among the most powerful consumers. This is because, although young people are not high-income earners, their disposable income is higher than that of adults since they do not incur expenses such as utility bills, mortgages, rent, credit card bills, and health insurance among others. As a result, the consumer behavior of young people has received strong interest because of their disposable income (Bastien & Kapferer 2012; Bellaiche et al. 2012).

Traditionally, the luxury goods market targeted adults with disposable income; however, statistics point out that the average age of the luxury goods consumer is reducing, which has resulted in luxury goods companies revising their strategies to also target young people (Danziger 2004). It is also projected that by 2018-2020, young people will become the largest consumer segment concerning the luxury goods market (Easterman & Eastman 2011).

Given the expected significance of young consumers in the luxury goods market, this research seeks to gain a better understanding of the perceptions of young people towards luxury brands. To establish this, there is the need to examine the attitude of young people in terms of their purchase intentions, feelings, beliefs, and perceptions of luxury leather products. To this end, the following are the research objectives:

  1. To investigate the perceptions of young people in the UK towards luxury leather brands.
  2. To examine the factors that influence young people’s attitudes towards and perceptions of luxury leather goods.
  3. To establish motivation and reasons influencing the consumption of luxury goods by young people in the UK.
  4. To determine the extent and type of luxury brand awareness among young people in the UK.
  5. To make conclusions and offer recommendations based on the research findings.

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Literature Review

Bastien and Kapferer (2012) maintain that definitions of luxury vary from society to society, which implies that luxury is not a universal concept and that it has evolved in the context of human civilization. As a result, definitions of luxury, as well as its consumption, vary by different civilizations and cultures. Bauer, Wallpach, and Hemetsberger (2011) consider luxury to be a puzzling concept. In the existing literature, there is a lack of consensus regarding the definition of luxury products and brands, and particularly, what constitutes a luxury brand in comparison with a non-luxury one. Nevertheless, in the context of advertising, it is evident that luxury is related to pleasure and indulgence of the senses through experiences or objects that are more ostentatious than required (Okonkwo 2010; Silverstein & Fiske 2003).

According to the Oxford Dictionary, luxury derives from the Latin word Luxus, which means “abundance” (Stevenson (ed.) 20110). The Oxford dictionary defines luxury as a state of great elegance that involves great expense. According to Bauer, Wallpach, and Hemetsberger (2011), luxury brands refer to those brands characterized by the high ratio of situational and intangible utility to price, and the low ratio of functional utility to price. In this regard, Bauer, Wallpach, and Hemetsberger (2011) state that luxury goods are not only premium-priced goods but these products that seek to provide satisfaction that extends beyond functional needs. As a result, a brand that serves its functional purpose is not necessarily a luxury brand. What differentiates luxury brands from non-luxury brands is that luxury brands provide psychological satisfaction.

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In tracing the origin and history of luxury products, Kapferer and Bastien (2009) point out that, luxury goods were used by aristocrats to showcase their status. During those times, luxury was visible and deliberately ostentatious and conspicuous. However, the French Revolution played a pivotal role in changing the notion of social hierarchy to create a society in which the civil and moral needs of the public were more crucial than birth. The idea gradually spread to other western countries, however, people`s need for social stratification was still evident. Today, luxury goods serve the same purpose in the sense that people use luxury brands to affirm a higher social rank (Cailleux, Mignot & Kapferer 2009; Doss & Robinson 2013; Fionda & Moore 2009).

There is also a consensus that luxury brands must have two aspects: a personal one and a social one (Guerrier & Maria 2012; Okonkwo 2010; Phau & Prendergast 2000). The dimensions of personal aspects include perceived quality and perceived hedonism. Concerning perceived hedonism, luxury consumers, who are looking for personal rewards, are capable of finding pleasures in buying and consuming a luxury product, which indicates that sensory pleasure and gratification expected from the consumption reflect a hedonistic dimension (Guerrier & Maria 2012).

About perceived quality, consumers view luxury brands as products with a greater quality as compared to non-luxury ones. The fact that consumers believe that luxury brands are of a greater quality explains their readiness to pay a higher price for luxury brands when compared to similar non-luxury products. Moreover, a superior quality could also be used to elucidate a higher price of luxury products. Regarding the social aspects of luxury products, luxury goods are perceived as a social symbol, which can be attributed to the perceived extended self, perceived conspicuousness, and perceived uniqueness.

The perceived conspicuousness of a luxury brand relates to the social status associated with the purchase and consumption of a luxury good. Since luxury brands are high-priced, they are supposed to affirm the social rank of the consumer (Bauer, Wallpach & Hemetsberger 2011; Kapferer 2012). Perceived uniqueness relates to the rarity feature of luxury, which is based on the idea that if many people own the brand, its prestige is eroded. Perceived extended self relates to materialism meaning that materialistic consumers consider luxury goods as a means of attaining happiness, and are likely to assess their success or others’ success using luxury brands.

A study conducted by Keller (2009) outlined seven criteria for a product to be considered as a luxury product. Nevertheless, although a luxury product must satisfy these criteria, its weight is not the same because there are several definitions of luxury brands. According to Keller (2009), the criteria are:

  • the product must be capable of evoking pleasure and emotion and offering a hedonistic experience;
  • long-lasting;
  • must have a high price-functionality ratio;
  • associated with heritage, culture;
  • selected distribution;
  • personalized customer services;
  • a social indicator that gives the buyer a sense of privilege.

Luxury goods have resulted in a new social stratification that is influenced by merits instead of heritage.

The luxury market is changing at the same time when consumers and society are changing their perceptions and attitudes towards luxury goods (Nia & Zaichkowsky 2000). A notable change in the luxury goods market is the emergence of new markets in developing countries. Another notable trend reported by Bellaiche et al., (2012) is the shift towards experiential luxury, particularly in developed markets such as the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States. In addition, there have been significant shifts concerning the concept of luxury in western societies.

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Today, luxury consumers are not looking to show products to confirm their wealth or social status; instead, hyper-consumption has altered the definition of luxury in a manner that it is becoming impossible to analyze luxury from a social stratification perspective or view luxury as a way of showing consumers` success. According to Cailleux, Mignot & Kapferer (2009), western societies are currently characterized by individualization of luxury, which has decreased the prevalence of appearance-driven luxury, which is mostly attributed to appearance and status-seeking.

Recently, western societies have been typified by the democratization of luxury, which involves the diffusion of luxury into the masses rather than being used only by the wealthiest. Moreover, luxury consumers are focusing on self-indulgence rather than comparisons with others; a change that has been associated with the increased consumption of luxury products by young people.

According to Atwal & Williams (2009), young people are influenced by peer pressure, researching information before purchasing, and lack of commitment. Young people are also aware of marketing and branding; as a result, they are more likely to prefer experience instead of the product itself. Young people also crave friends’ validation and seek to share the experience with their friends instead of showing superiority (Cailleux, Mignot & Kapferer 2009).

It is also evident that the aspect of exclusivity associated with luxury consumption has changed to something that is more personal meaning that using a luxury product is more about personal experience and feeling good, and that luxury consumers prefer enjoying the product rather than using the product to show off. As Atwal and Williams (2009) explain, young luxury consumers use luxury goods to develop a sense of belonging, to create an identity, and express themselves. According to Okonkwo (2012), young luxury consumers are more individualistic and are quick to combine high street brands with luxury fashion brands.

It is evident from the literature review that an emphasis has been placed on profiling luxury consumers in light of the criteria for luxury brands. Little emphasis has been placed on attempting to explore attitudes and perceptions of young people towards luxury products. How do young people perceive luxury products? Do they purchase luxury products for enjoyment or status? In this research, the attitudes and perceptions of young people in the United Kingdom towards luxury products are explored, in particular towards leather products.

Methodology and Methods

Research Philosophy

Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2007) emphasize the need for researchers to determine their worldview, which relates to how they perceive the social world being investigated to devise the most appropriate research paradigm to direct the study. In this research, the interpretivism research philosophy was selected. The research philosophy emphasizes three main aspects, which include the social construction of knowledge, focusing on situational details, and the use of small samples that are mostly qualitative and carrying in-depth investigations into the issue at hand (Daymon & Holloway 2002; Fisher 2007).

This research philosophy was chosen because the researcher intends to be actively engaged in the research process and conduct a detailed investigation into the perceptions and attitudes of young people towards luxury brands, which can only be achieved by conducting detailed investigations and immersing oneself in the research process. Through small qualitative samples and in-depth investigations, the researcher believes that it is possible to explain the attitudes and perceptions of young people towards luxury brands (Laurel 2003).

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In addition, since the emphasis of the research will be on the provision of deeper insights rather than generalization and presentation of patterns and trends, the interpretivism research philosophy was the most appropriate when compared to other paradigms. Moreover, interpretivism will be the most suitable philosophy because participants will be required to answer open-ended questions, which demands the use of an interpretive analysis (Nardi 2003). According to Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2007), interpretivism makes use of qualitative research methods, wherein the focus is on words and not numbers; using small scale studies to build a deep and detailed narrative of the topic being investigated; and embarking on holistic investigation instead of investigating sets of variables.

Research Strategy and Approach

The qualitative nature of this study will require the use of an inductive approach, which is normally deployed in theory development rather than theory testing (Ruane 2005). The inductive research has been chosen because the proposed research will be exploratory and seeks to perform holistic research rather than investigating relationships between variables (as in the case of confirmatory and descriptive studies). Moreover, the study will not make use of pre-determined variables; rather, participants will provide direction and shape the study by responding to open-ended questions. In other words, the course of the study will be directed by participants, and the researcher will not influence the responses offered by limiting choices, which implies that this research will deploy a specific-to-general model that requires inductive reasoning. (Sherri 2011)

Research Design

The study will make use of a cross-sectional design, which is a form of observational research that entails gathering data from a sample at a point in time. According to Fisher (2007), cross-sectional designs are effective in providing a snapshot of the characteristics of participants at a particular point in time. The choice of the cross-sectional design is because of the need to gather the perceptions of young people towards luxury brands at one instance rather than examining the changes in their perceptions over time. As a result, the longitudinal design will be inappropriate for this research. In addition, the case study design will not be suitable because of the need to gather first-hand data (Walliman 2009).

Unit of Analysis

Sample Selection Procedures

Participants in the study will be selected using purposive sampling, sometimes referred to as judgmental samples. Purposive sampling involves selecting participants based on the purpose of the study and knowledge about the population. Fisher (2007) asserts that in purposive sampling, participants are chosen because of a particular characteristic. In this case, participants will be selected because of their use of luxury leather products. Consumers of luxury leather products have specific patterns of behaviors and attitudes; as a result, purposive sampling will enable the researcher to have a better understanding of their behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions of luxury leather products. Random sampling was considered, but it is not suitable for this study because the researcher specifically targets young consumers of luxury leather products (Vogt, Gardner & Lynne 2012).

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Using random sampling is more likely to include non-consumers of luxury leather products. As a result, participants will be purposively selected to meet the required characteristic: young consumers of luxury leather products. In this research, young consumers aged 18-25 will be surveyed, and they must confirm that they are consumers of luxury leather products, which will be established through verbal conformation by the respondent or looking for evidence of luxury leather product use such as belts and jackets. Concerning the sample size, the researcher anticipates interviewing 15 participants. Social and personal connections will enable the researcher to target a set of initial respondents at the University.

Further referrals by the initial participants will facilitate the recruitment of more participants to reach the target sample size. In interview research, there is no consensus regarding the method of determining the sample size; provided data saturation is achieved during the interviews. Vogt, Gardner, and Lynne (2012) recommend performing at least 12 interviews to collect trustworthy and rich data. In addition, it is imperative to ensure that the respondents know about the topic being investigated. Based on this criterion, it is evident that a sample size of 15 will provide rich data, especially because participants will be purposively selected.

Data Collection Strategy

The data collection strategy will involve the use of a survey. Fisher (2007) points out that surveys are effective in evaluating the feelings, opinions, and thoughts of people. The specific survey research strategy will be used in interviews. This strategy has been chosen as a data collection method because interviews are the most effective in providing detailed information. Other survey techniques such as questionnaires and observations will not be suitable given the purpose of the study. The choice of interviews for this research draws upon the fact that questions can be clarified and it allows the researcher to follow up on incomplete responses (Ness 2010; Neuman 2003). Interviews will be conducted face-to-face, through chat/messaging or telephone depending on a respondent`s preference. Identified participants will be invited by e-mail and the initial participants` referrals. The interview protocol is shown in Appendix 1.

Data Analysis Plan

Qualitative data analysis will primarily involve the use of coding categories to identify common themes and patterns. The coding of qualitative data involves organizing the data into important categories to determine any common themes, interesting stories, and any patterns that may be similar to previous studies. To enhance the reliability of the research, data collection protocols and techniques will be standardized (Daymon & Holloway 2002).

Ethical Issues

All research studies should take into account the ethical issues that arise when conducting a study. In this study, before participation, respondents will be provided with an informed consent informing them of the purpose of the study, how data will be gathered, what will be expected of them and the researcher. Another ethical issue that will be taken into account is respondents` voluntary participation. In this regard, no participant will be forced to take part in the survey (Fisher 2007). The researcher will acknowledge that participants have the right not to take part in the study and the right to withdraw even after the survey has been commenced. In this regard, the researcher will allow participants to choose the most appropriate time for interviews and the venue they are comfortable with.

In line with voluntary participation, participants will not be forced to respond to questions they do not want to answer. Another potential issue that will be taken into consideration is the anonymity and confidentiality of participants. In this regard, participants’ information sheets, recordings, and interview transcripts will be protected from unauthorized access. In addition, when writing the report, no direct references will be made in a manner that could compromise their privacy. Lastly, participants will not be subject to any form of harm or discomfort; in this regard, the venue and time of an interview will be decided upon by participants.


This research focuses mainly on young people at the university and their subsequent referrals, which implies that few resources will be required. The interview protocol will not be printed since the researcher will use a laptop during the interviews to minimize costs. The laptop to be used will be equipped with an inbuilt headset microphone and a recorder to record the interviews. This will eliminate the need to buy tape recorders and thus will cut costs. Speech recognition software will be deployed to help in converting speech into text for textual analysis. There will be no additional costs for speech recognition software since there is several free speech recognition software that can be downloaded from the Internet.

The anticipated costs, which cannot be projected at the moment, are related to the venue for interviews. About this, the researcher will attempt to convince participants to meet in places that are accessible and inexpensive such as parks and coffee shops or restaurants among others. A Gantt chart, presented in Appendix 2, shows the research plan. It is expected that the research will take three months to complete (from May 1st to 31st July). This period does not include the time needed to write and submit the research proposal.

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Conclusion and Reflection

The luxury industry is one of the lucrative industries; however, consumer behavior in the industry is one of the most puzzling issues that need investigation, especially among young people in the United Kingdom. As a result, an in-depth understanding of how young people perceive luxury leather products may provide important insights into how luxury goods companies can target this group of consumers. In most cases literature on luxury goods consumption has embarked on profiling the characteristics of luxury consumers as a whole; little emphasis has been placed on profiling young luxury consumers, which is the focus of the proposed study. Primary qualitative data will be collected using interviews to facilitate an in-depth investigation into the young people's perceptions of and attitudes towards luxury leather products.

The strength of this research is that emphasis is placed on gaining a better and detailed understanding of young people's perceptions of and attitudes towards luxury brands. The researcher anticipates providing an in-depth look into the issue. A potential weakness is that the findings of the proposed study cannot be generalized; however, they offer crucial theoretical implications that could be further evaluated using quantitative techniques to determine whether they apply to the general population. This study implies that it will offer a theoretical model that can be used in understanding the needs and wants of young people concerning luxury leather products. A suggestion for further research is to empirically evaluate the assertions that will be highlighted in this study using large and diverse samples.

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