Executive summary of “Pre-loved luxury: identifying the meanings of second-hand luxury possessions”

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 16 March 2015



(2015), "Executive summary of “Pre-loved luxury: identifying the meanings of second-hand luxury possessions”", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 24 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-01-2015-0793



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Executive summary of “Pre-loved luxury: identifying the meanings of second-hand luxury possessions”

Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Product & Brand Management, Volume 24, Issue 1

This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the material present.

Sales of luxury goods are expected to grow by around 7 per cent annually over the next few years. At least, part of the increasing demand is attributed to the wider availability of such items. The Internet and other technological advances mean that luxury products have become more easily accessible to a greater number of people.

Most research attention has been limited to the consumption of brand-new luxury items that include clothing, leather goods and accessories, jewelry, and cosmetics. It has shown that people conventionally either purchase authentic luxury brands or cheaper alternatives offered by sister-brand labels.

Uniqueness and craftsmanship are typically associated with luxury products. But the definition of luxury should incorporate other characteristics in addition to product-related factors, various researchers have claimed. Three separate dimensions are thus proposed:

1. Functional: This addresses product attributes and their capacity to meet utilitarian performance requirements.

2. Experiential: The personal and hedonic aspects of luxury brands and the “sensory pleasure” they provide are covered by this dimension.

3. Symbolic: Here, the focus is on the allure of luxury items.

Value, status and identity associated with the consumer of the brand are socially constructed. Symbolic meanings emerge when others interpret the signals.

Context and time means that the respective importance of these dimensions is subject to change.

A more recent emergence is demand for used luxury products. To date, this phenomenon has been largely ignored in the literature. Some research into the purchase of second-hand fashion and clothing has been conducted, although the emphasis was not solely on luxury products. One conclusion from this work was that such behavior is frequently driven by desires linked to recycling, sustainability and environmentally friendly consumption practices. Other studies have examined the emotional experiences of consumers engaging in collecting previously used items.

Certain findings from this work may have relevance to the acquisition of second-hand luxury items. The thrill provided by the search process is one potentially common feature, along with the significance placed on such as rarity and nostalgia. Turunen et al. differentiate between vintage, collector’s items and second-hand luxury items. Vintage is the term used to describe articles that are connected to a particular era and can be rare and valuable. The notion of value is also integral to collector’s pieces. In this case, the items by definition have some psychological and/or emotional worth to the individual concerned. Second-hand consumption differs in that it refers to both the acquisition and use of a product. With vintage items and collector pieces, usage will not necessarily have occurred or will occur. For the present study, the authors use the term “second-hand luxury” to describe the acquisition and consumption of used luxury products.

The aim is to gain further insight into meanings associated with the possession of second-hand luxury items. Finland was selected as the context for the work because both conventional and second-hand luxury markets are still developing there. Qualitative interviews were carried out with ten Finnish female fashion blog writers who were owners of luxury items bought both brand-new and used items. These “consumers of luxury brands” were considered a suitable target group, as they were diverse in terms of demographic backgrounds and income levels. Interviews focused on meanings attached to handbags, belts, purses and other luxury accessories purchased as second-hand. Additional online data relating to the issue were obtained to further support the study purpose.

Following the analysis of the information, the authors ascertained that meanings associated with consumption of second-hand luxury items could be organized into five themes respectively labeled as:

1. Sustainable choice: Certain respondents led sustainable lifestyles, reflected in their passion for such as recycling and animal rights. Acquiring used luxury items was regarded as acting responsibly and serving these interests. Buying second-hand was also revealed as a protest against the degree of materialism and consumerism in today’s world.

2. Real deal: Being able to find a second-hand product in good quality at a bargain price was the theme here. In addition to maximizing value for money, the informants gained satisfaction from helping to prolong the life cycle of the product. Instead of regarding themselves simply as end users, answers revealed possible intention to sell the product later on.

3. Pre-loved treasure: This refers to the “self-fulfillment” experienced when a used luxury fashion accessory is obtained. Knowing the history of the product served to heighten its perceived validity helped respondents to cherish a possession that provides them with a way to differentiate themselves from others.

4. Risk investment: The need to ensure that second-hand luxury products are bona fide is recognized by participants. Such concerns have prompted the development of strategies to better protect their interests. This includes buying from trusted second-hand shops or taking products to a retail outlet of the brand to authenticate it. It is suggested by Turunen et al. that such awareness and actions demonstrate that respondents are “empowered experts” in this category of used luxury goods.

5. Unique find: Informants imply that discovering the item in itself is an enriching experience, particularly when they are scarce. Earlier work has also suggested that this paucity and distinctiveness contributes to the personality of said products. Owning such an item makes the individual feel more unique too.

The authors point out that these themes are not discrete entities and provide examples of where overlap arguably occurs. They suggest that meanings relate to social or individual dimensions and to inauthentic and authentic dimensions. Sustainable choice is regarded as a socially motivated theme, whereas self-related concerns are expressed in the Real Deal theme. Likewise, anxiety about counterfeit products reflects risk investment. But a major aspect of pre-loved treasure is the belief that the nostalgia inherent in used luxury goods can make them even more authentic than those purchased new. In their view, the unique find category is linked to all the other themes of meaning.

On this evidence, it is suggested that experience is a key part of acquiring second-hand luxury products. This experience is the result of a co-creation process that involves consumer, product, brand and distribution channel. A significant consequence of the experience is the depth of relationships owners can develop with these possessions.

Turunen et al. recommend that the luxury industry focuses on the entire life cycle when marketing luxury brands. Stressing the high-quality and extensive durability is particularly emphasized. Given the priorities indicated by study participants, a related suggestion is to emphasize the sustainability aspect of these products. The value placed on authenticity was also readily apparent. This provides opportunities for luxury brands to follow the minority of others that currently provide services where used products can be authenticated. Customers benefiting from this might subsequently purchase new luxury items of the brand in the future.

Similar research using different consumer segments and national contexts is an option. For instance, comparing the value placed on uniqueness in individualistic and collectivist cultures could be explored. It might indicate to what extent the Internet has removed some traditional boundaries in that respect. An investigation into the disposal of luxury products and the “conceptual linkage” between second-hand, vintage and collecting’ items is also suggested.

To read the full article, enter 10.1108/JPBM-05-2014-0603 into your search engine.

(A précis of the article “Pre-loved luxury: identifying the meaning of second hand luxury possessions”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)

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