A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Attitudes Toward the Luxury Concept in Australia and France

ABSTRACT - The Dubois-Laurent scale for measuring the concept of luxury in the minds of consumers was administered to comparable samples in France and Australia. Descriptive statistics reveal significant differences on all but two items on the scale. The correlational matrix and factor analysis on the combined data reveals several factors that could be included in future international assessment on luxury. These items were found to be bipolar in valance for the two countries, with significant differences using analysis of variance. Multiple regression analysis shows the same items predict overall attitude toward luxury. This study brings the Dubois-Laurent scale one step closer to an international assessment tool for the concept of luxury.



Citation:

Paula Tidwell and Bernard Dubois (1996) ,"A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Attitudes Toward the Luxury Concept in Australia and France", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, eds. Russel Belk and Ronald Groves, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 31-35.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1996      Pages 31-35

A CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON OF ATTITUDES TOWARD THE LUXURY CONCEPT IN AUSTRALIA AND FRANCE

Paula Tidwell, University of Southern Queensland

Bernard Dubois, Groupe H.E.C.

ABSTRACT -

The Dubois-Laurent scale for measuring the concept of luxury in the minds of consumers was administered to comparable samples in France and Australia. Descriptive statistics reveal significant differences on all but two items on the scale. The correlational matrix and factor analysis on the combined data reveals several factors that could be included in future international assessment on luxury. These items were found to be bipolar in valance for the two countries, with significant differences using analysis of variance. Multiple regression analysis shows the same items predict overall attitude toward luxury. This study brings the Dubois-Laurent scale one step closer to an international assessment tool for the concept of luxury.

INTRODUCTION

The Dubois-Laurent luxury scale was developed several years ago to measure consumer attitudes toward the concept of luxury (Dubois and Laurent, 1994). The scale was developed in France, but to date the scale has not been tested cross-culturally. Thus, to increase the validity of the scale and to compare the concept of luxury internationally, the scale was administered to comparable samples in Australia and France.

Although no research could be found on the concept of luxury on Australian consumers, past research has shown that the concept of luxury has a very strong relationship with French products in the minds of consumers in several countries (Dubois and Laurent, 1993; McKinsey Corp., 1990; Weber and Dubois, forthcoming). Although recent events have seen tension between the French and Australian governments, the Australian data reported in this study was collected before the nuclear testing in the South Pacific and therefore should not have influenced the attitudes of the Australian subjects. Thus, if the same strong relationships to French products were present, current events would not have confounded the results.

The Dubois-Laurent scale was first developed with French housewives (Dubois and Laurent, 1994). To test the generalisability of the scale, it was decided that different populations (i,e, students) should be used for the current study. The research was exploratory in that no previously published research on the concept of luxury in the minds of Australian consumers has been conducted. However, based on studies of consumer attitudes in both France and Australia, one would expect to find significant differences in consumer attitudes towards the concept of luxury. Therefore, the hypothesis to be tested with this study will be:

Ho =  There are no significant differences between Australian and French consumers in their attitudes toward the concept of luxury on the Dubois-Laurent scale.

H1 =  French consumers will have a more positive attitude toward the concept of luxury as operationally defined by items on the Dubois-Laurent scale, compared to Australian consumers.

The French, for example, feel that luxury is positive and is integrated with their lifestyle. (Dubois-Duquesne 1993) They feel comfortable with the concept of luxury and strive to have luxury products (Dubois and Laurent, 1993 and 1994). The "Tall Poppy Syndrome" as it is commonly referred to, is alive and well in Australian culture, with any poppy, or person, who grows above the rest being ostracised by society, or the rest of the poppies. The cultural levelling or commitment to an egalitarian society is directly opposed to the concept of luxury and luxury products. Australians tend to have a very negative attitude toward luxury as a concept. While it is permissible to receive a luxury product as a gift, or drive a luxury car provided by your company, it is less acceptable to buy such products for oneself. (Hirshman 1990). Conspicuous consumption of luxury products is not tolerated by Australian culture, which is opposite to other cultures who are very conformable with and accepting of luxury (LaBarbera, 1988; Tidwell, 1994a and 1994b; Weber and Dubois 1995). Given these differences between the Australian and French cultures toward the concept of luxury, these two populations were felt to provide a cross-cultural test for the Dubois-Laurent scale.

METHOD

University students enrolled in a management course were sampled in Australia and France. The average age of the French sample was just over 23 years, while the average age of the Australian sample were just over 21. There were slightly more females than males in both countries, with 54% females in France, and 52% females in Australia. Sample sizes were originally larger; however, non-native Australian and non-native French were removed form the data set before analysis. Unfortunately, a large number of those in the original French sample were natives of other European countries. Thus, there were 117 Australians and 50 French consumers samples.

The 34-item Dubois-Laurent scale was administered in a written questionnaire format to the subjects during lecture. Discussion between subjects was not allowed while completing the questionnaire. Data was collected in November in both countries.

RESULTS

Descriptive statistics were run on the 34 items and reveal significant differences between the French and Australian subjects on all but two items. The 34 items are listed and frequencies provided in Table 1. The two samples were then combined to determine which items on the scale should be retained in an international version of the Dubois-Laurent scale. A correlation matrix was produced and a series of factor analysis conducted which produced an 8-item 4-factor structure.

Factor 2, LUXPERSO, describes the personal expertise and familiarity with luxury and is assessed by items 12 and 21. Factor 3, LUXSOCIO, includes times 16 and 18 and describes the attitude toward luxury as a right for everyone versus a privilege for the happy few. Factor 4, LUXUTF, includes items 5 and 6 and describes the feeling of luxury as genuine or artificial.

Table 2 reveals the loadings underlying the factorial structure, while Table 3 contrasts the French and Australian average values on each factor. Differences were found statistically significant on the first three dimensions but not on the last one.

The data was then analysed in terms of Fishbein=s attitude theory, considering affect, cognitions, and behaviour of the subjects based on items in the Dubois-Laurent scale. Multiple regression results indicate that Factors 1 and 2 predict rather well the Affective component of Luxury, with F(4,162) = 34.91, p < .00, R squared .46, with both factors 1 and f2, with p = .00. Factors 1, 2 and 4 predict the Behavioural component of Luxury, with F(4,162) = 14.7, p <.00, R squared .26, with Factors 1 and 2 p < .00, and with Factor 4 p < .05. Thus, it appears that all items included in these Factors should be included for future research on luxury inn either France of Australia. These items are: 2, 22, 12, 21, 16, 18, 5 and 6 as presented in Table 1.

TABLE 1

COMPARISON OF AUSTRALIAN AND FRENCH SUBJECTS

TABLE 2

FACTORIAL STRUCTURE

TABLE 3

ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE RESULTS FOR THE FOUR FACTORS

CONCLUSIONS

The Australian results show a very negative attitude toward the concept of luxury. Luxury is seen by the Australian in this study as artificial. The "Tall Poppy Syndrome" is confirmed by these results, which show a strong negative attitude toward luxury as a lifestyle or as part of their self-concept. Item number 26 shows that the Australian sampled are very knowledgeable about luxury; however, this may be in the socially-appropriate context of gift-giving or negative word-of-mouth. The Australian results show a strong negativity for conspicuous consumption of luxury products. However, past research in Australia shows that Australians secretly strive for luxury products and in fact have luxury products, but are inconspicuous in their consumption (Tidwell, 1994a; Tidwell, Himson, and Turnbull, 1995); however further research in this area needs to be conducted regarding whether the different consumption activities are manifestations of different levels of desire for luxury. One of the reasons gambling, raffles, and lotteries are so popular among Australian is because it allows the acquisition of luxury products without the personal responsibility for having acquired them (Tidwell, 1994b).

The French results are significantly different from the Australian results, allowing for further development of the Dubois-Laurent scale. Item 27 (All things considered. I rather like luxury) served to measure affect: item 32 (I'm not interested in luxury) was used to measure interest (cognitive involvement). and item 29 (I almost never buy luxury products) served as an indicator of purchase behaviour. The French results show a strong relationship between the consumer= self-concept and the concept of luxury, and relate them to theories of conspicuous behaviour (Veblen. 1899 Mason. 1981) This is not true for the Australian sample as evidenced by item 23 on the scale. Although no differentiation was made in this study between the actual, ideal, and feared self-concept items. Based on other research in Australia (Lasky and Tidwell, 1996), significant differences were found among consumers of a range of products between the ideal, actual, and feared self-concept, although no questions were specifically asked about luxury products. More research is needed to determine which aspect of the self the Australian associate with the concept of luxury.

Results from this study could be analysed using confirmatory factor analysis. Future multiple regression analyses could be conducted with separate criterion items not included the Dubois-Laurent scale, but would require further data collection or comparison to other studies. Further research needs to be conducted on other consumer populations to assess attitudes toward the concept of luxury to determine whether the results presented here are generalisable to other populations of consumers. Specifically, consumption of luxury products may be used as an independent variable and analysed against a strength of attitude. In addition, what products consumers consider to be luxury items would need to be explored and controlled for in future studies. In addition, larger sample sizes should be used to generalise these results with a higher degree of validity compared to the current study. The attitudes of consumers in a post nuclear testing environment should be assessed, controlling for attitudes toward French products.

This study has generated results that have significant implications for future research on luxury. First, because the cultural expectations are different from individual aspirations, and actual self is different form ideal self, observational methods of research and self reports may lead to very different results for visible luxury products. Furthermore, when conducting in-depth interviews in the homes of consumers and making notes about such possessions as the furnishings inside their homes, one may find products that would be considered luxury products in certain cultures, but are not considered luxury products by their owners. For example, and expensive painting would be considered a luxury item in France, whereas in Australia it would not. Thus, consumers= perceptions and attitudes toward luxury products, and their actual behaviour regarding luxury items may be drastically different.

This study has contributed to the small body of literature available on the concept of luxury, and has brought the research one step closer to the development of a formal theory of luxury. In addition, the cross-cultural test of the Dubois-Laurent scale brings the battery one step closer to an international version of the scale. The items selected for this Franco-Australian version are bipolar in valance, yet highly predictive of overall attitude toward luxury, and thus may be appropriate for other cultures; however, this remains to be tested.

REFERENCES

Dubois, B. and Duquesne, P. (1993a). Polarisation maps: A new approach to identifying and assessing competitive position: The case of luxury brands. Marketing and Research Today, 21, 2(May), 115-123.

Dubois, B. and Duquesne, P. (1993b). The market for luxury goods: Income vs culture. European Journal of Marketing, 21, 1, 35-44.

Dubois, B. and Laurent, G. (1993). Is there a Euro-consumer for Luxury goods? In Fred Van Raaij and Gary Bamossy (eds.), European Advances in Consumer Research, 1, 58-69. Provo, UT, Association for Consumer Research.

Dubois, B. and Laurent, G. (1994). Attitude towards the concept of luxury: An exploratory analysis. Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research, 1, 273-278. Singapore, Association for Consumer Research.

Hirschman,B. (1990), Secular Immorality and the American Ideoligy of affluence", Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 17, 31-42

LaBarbera, P.A. (1988). The nouveaux riches: Conspicuous consumption and the issue of self fulfilment. In Elizabeth Hirschmann (ed.), Research in Marketing, 3, 115-147. JAI Press, Inc.

Lasky, G. and Tidwell, P.M. (1996). Feared self and implications for self-enhancement. In Byron Sharp (Ed.) Proceedings of the 10th Australian Marketing Educators= Conference. Adelaide, SA, Australia.

Mason, R. (1981), Conspicuous Consumption, New York: St Martin's Press.

McKinsey Corporation (1990). The Luxury Industry:An Asset for France. Paris: McKinsey

Tidwell, P.M. (1994a). Orange City Centre Customer Survey. Bathurst, NSW, Australia: Orange City Shopping Centre.

Tidwell, P.M. (1994b0. The Bathurst House and Land Giveaway Study. Bathurst, NSW, Australia: Bathurst Chamber of Commerce.

Tidwell, P.M., Himson, S., and Turnbull, J. (1995). The Viability of a Soap Shop in Bathurst. Bathurst, NSW, Australia: Bathurst Enterprise Centre.

Tidwell, P.M., Horgan, D.D. and Kenny, C.T. (1992). Brand character as a function of brand loyalty. Current Psychology, 11, (4), 347-353.

Tidwell, P.M. and Marks, W. (1994). American versus Australian consumer decision making: An analysis of decision rules used in limited problem solving behaviour. Asia pacific Advances in Consumer Research, 1, 148-152.

Veblin, T. (1889). The Theory of the leisure Class, New York: Mc Millan.

Weber, D. and Dubois, B. (forthcoming), The edge of dream: Managing brand equity in the European luxury market. In Lynn Kahle and M. Chiagouris (Eds.), Values, Lifestyles and Psychographics. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Elbaum Associates.

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Authors

Paula Tidwell, University of Southern Queensland
Bernard Dubois, Groupe H.E.C.



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2 | 1996



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