Empathica Consumer Insights Panel:
Luxury Retail Report

Analysis of U.S. & Canadian Behaviors in Retail Luxury

Executive Summary

The Wave 2 2011-2012 Empathica Consumer Insights Panel surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. and Canadian consumers, focusing on their sentiments toward luxury goods purchases — from overall customer service, through preferred shopping channels and service levels, to product research behaviors. The survey of sentiments toward luxury good purchases was conducted within a broader look at consumer spending behaviors and intentions based on current economic factors.

A few notable statistics from the survey are as follows:

  • Shopping behaviors and intentions: The primary reason consumers made a luxury purchase was to reward themselves (31.9%), although many consumers also indicated they were finally getting around to buying a luxury item that they had previously delayed purchasing (17.5%). Others bought a luxury item for a significant other (12.5%), or said they had extra money to spend (11.5%).
  • Shopping behaviors by gender: Men are the “big spenders,” not women, according to survey results. The majority of men said their most expensive purchase over a six month periodthe past six months was between $1,000 and $2,500. For women, the majority indicated that their most expensive purchase had been between $100 and $500.
  • From conspicuous consumption to conspicuous value: While most consumers were hesitant to boast about a luxury purchase they made, a third said they bragged about getting a good deal.
  • Online vs. in-store preferences: Despite the growing trend toward online shopping, the majority (61%) of consumers still prefer to shop in-store for luxury products. Why? Because findings showed that most people still like to personally examine a product before they buy it.
  • Industry perceptions: Despite the recession, three out of four consumers indicated they perceive there are the same or even more luxury brands available today than there were two to three years ago, making the luxury market more competitive than ever.
  • Service matters: When making a luxury purchase, a third of consumers said they consider highly knowledgeable and well-trained employees the most important element of their luxury purchase experience. The consequence of poor service is also clear; three out of four consumers said they buy either nothing – or less – than what they would normally purchase if there are not enough employees in the store to assist them.
  • “Wealth” is in the eye of the consumer: While almost half (45%) of consumers with a household income between $50,000 and $60,000 indicated they would consider themselves wealthy if they earned $100,000 per year, only 16% of those actually making $100,000+ per year considered themselves wealthy.
  • Social sharing: 28% of consumers reported they would tell others about their luxury purchase through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook or blogs.
  • The consumer researcher: Consumers reported using more than one channel to gather information. The most common channels cited were: visiting the brand’s website (68%), going to the brick-and-mortar store (67%), and reading online reviews (45%).
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