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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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DISSERTATION

Consumer behavior towards bridge to luxury segment ( menswear) in Indian context

ABSTRACT

Bridge to luxury segment serves as a bridge between premium and luxury segment in terms of both price and perception. Priced anywhere between 3,000 to 40,000 for apparels, such brands are becoming popular among consumers looking to move up from premium brands such as Zara and Tommy Hilfiger but can't afford high-end luxury brands such as Gucci or Dior. Luxury is what everyone wants to indulge in but not everyone can reach that stature. Therefore, Bridge to luxury brands are narrowing the gap where people can aspire to move a notch higher on the ladder to luxury. Adding to the aspirational value, these brands are over ruling the luxury market in India.

The fundamental point of this research is to study the consumer behaviour towards bridge to luxury segment (Menswear) with special reference to three metropolitan cities in India (Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore).

For this purpose, the study determines the understanding of purchase intentions and buying behaviour of men towards bridge to luxury segment.

The research follows a quantitative research technique (survey) wherein a questionnaire was circulated through online and offline mediums for data collection on consumer behaviour towards the BTL segment.

 

The findings establish a concrete understanding of the frequency of shopping, willingness to spend, values, store/brand selection criteria, motivational factors, source of awareness and factors that influence the purchase intention and buying behaviour towards bridge to luxury segment (menswear)

INTRODUCTION

Bridge to luxury (BTL) brands are a segment which bridges the  gap between premium and luxury segment both in terms of price and perception.. Bridge to luxury segment are also called "affordable"  or "accessible" luxury. The price range for bridge to luxury segment lies between the end of premium range to beginning of luxury range which is approximately from INR 3000 to 50,000 in apparels.

BTL segment follows an egalitarian approach, of brands aiming not high, but wide, at a broad swathe of middle-class consumers eager to snap up status symbols, provided the price is right.

"Accessible luxury is about making exceptional fashion available to a wider range of shoppers," ( Mary Beech, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of New York's Kate Spade & Company,2017). These clothes are widely available, but they're not especially exceptional: they're simple designs in decent materials with a cachet-laden name attractively attached. They are accessible economically and aesthetically. They're not breaking new stylistic ground.

  The high rate of industrialisation, growth of service sector and better employment opportunities have increased consumers disposable income, developed new lifestyles and awareness and a drastic change can be seen in their buying behaviour. India is developing at a fast rate and so is the willingness to spend on luxury items among the Indian luxury middle class. Lifestyle of an Indian luxury consumer is changing rapidly. In earlier times willingness to spend in India was more inclined towards fixed assets and not depreciating assets. Nowadays,  due to exposure towards western culture, the Indian luxury consumers are willing to spend on luxury items. However, the thought is different as compared to western luxury consumers where value appreciation exists but not at high end brands prices.

  Life- style, simply reflect on what one does, what one's opinions are interests are.  In typical marketing language they are activities, interests and opinions. The Indian consumer market is becoming increasingly sophisticated and brand conscious due to rise in education, liberty, social gatherings etc.  A typical upper middle class young consumer is beginning to look beyond the utility aspect of a product to seek intangibles like brand and lifestyle statement associated with the product (Narula , 2017). This modern consumer wants his purchases to reflect his lifestyle or at least the one he aspires for. As a result of this brand consciousness, the apparel segment is witnessing a significant shift in demand from premium brands to bridge to luxury brands. The changing lifestyle has an enormous impact of consumer behaviour. This changing lifestyle causes an impact on the choice, influence, consumption patterns, trend, decision making process etc. The Indian consumer now days want to live in present and prefer a life full of luxury & comfort but are still  price sensitive towards high end luxury brands like Loius Vuitton, Dior, Canali etc (Harman et al , 2015).

  In the years ahead, luxury will no longer be the preserve of just the traditional luxury buyers; rather, an increasing proportion in the demand for luxury is likely to stem from the upper middle classes that aspire to buy these goods. Because of their rising income levels, this section of the population is motivated to ascend the "consumption ladder". Luxury consumers in India can be divided into two broad categories - global Indians who possess "old" money and young Indians who have "new" money. Global Indians buy luxury to attain self-satisfaction, whereas young Indians purchase luxuries because of high social pressure and to display their flamboyant personalities (Jain and Kharbanda, 2014).

In the Indian market this strategy can be seen working successfully in the luxury car and fashion markets.

Consumer reaction to these new 'accessible luxury' brands was immense with impressive metrics resulting:

o Average breakeven investment time of only 1 year for an 'accessible luxury' brand

o Furla, a new entrant and name in the market had sales of $110 per square foot within half a year

o Armani Jeans had 25-30% higher sales per square foot than any other fashion retailer

Operating a luxury business calls for a lot of patience in the Indian marketplace as it brings along slower returns. brands are preferring to work on faster turnarounds. The break even period for a luxury brand can be about double as compared to that of a bridge-to-luxury brand. This is the primary reason for bridge-to-luxury brands gaining the limelight.. Harish Bijoor, CEO Consultant of DLF (2017) says ,

 "People have an aspirational value that they will get there where they can afford luxury. More people are getting attracted to this industry as it is cheaper than luxury; the tag value is good and offers exclusivity "  (Kapoor , 2017) Sephora has just made an India entry with its first store in Delhi. Furla from the Genesis Colors umbrella is adding to the brands profits. They have also recently tied-up with Vince Comuto, the American fashion label

according to Kapoor (2017) bridge to luxury is financially a profitable model for India.

Between Bridge to-luxury brand and a luxury brand at around 1 crore, the former can break even within the first year of operation while a luxury label takes a minimum of two years.

marketers, it has become significant to read the behaviours and attitudes of individual's especially

young people towards luxury products. In the modern world, companies achieve profits and goals with the help of detailed information of consumer behaviours. The companies gain the ability to earn higher customer loyalty only with the help of consumer behaviours and therefore itis considered as the most important concept by the organizations (Godey, 2013).

With the rise of bridge to luxury segment and the changing lifestyle of the Indian consumers, it is very important to study the parameters of their consumption pattern., the influencing factors towards their purchase intention, willingness to spend, the budget, frequency of buying, monthly income et. Consumers are the heart of every business and in order to be successful, there is a need to understand what the consumer wants, what influences them towards the purchase, their control variables, etc.

BACKGROUND AND PROBLEM DISCUSSION

Experts point out that bridge to luxury segment strategy  is democratization of luxury as these brands make luxury-like products accessible to the middle-class and upper-middle class consumers. A number of bridge-to-luxury brands such as Diesel, Simon Carter, Brooks and Brothers, Thomas Pink, Massimo Dutti are doing well in india in the menswear segment.  Arvind Lifestyle Brands on the other hand, plans to invest Rs 25 crores in retail expansion of its bridge-to-luxury brands while expecting Gant and Nautica to become Rs 100 crores brands by 2015-16. (Luxury retail in India , 2013) Genesis has already tied up with accessible luxury brands such as Vince Comuto, Sephora and Armani Jeans besides Furla. It plans to open around 24 stores of these brands in the next two years with an investment of about Rs 50 crores. (Fashion united, 2017 )

  The journey for the bridge to luxury segment looks  very smooth The prospects and opportunities are immense. In no tie, it has over taken the luxury market in India and in the coming days will definitely scale o greater heights. Bijoor tells, "The future for the industry is very bright. People are seamlessly growing aspirationally but by affordability are not there yet so these brands will help them reach there. Also these brands will work as stepping stones which will first lead to a boom in this segment and consequently to a boom in luxury."  ( Malhotra, 2015)

Although the bridge to luxury segment is increasing at a very fast rate, there are dearth of research done to understand the consumer behaviour patterns towards bridge to luxury segment in Indian context.

On the other hand, the ever intensifying pace of globalization, rapid advancements in the technology and severe competition in the market are consistently defining and shaping the consumers behavior. Thus, looking into the aftermaths of these effects is also crucial to understand how powerful and typical these motivational factors are on the individual of today. And of course eventually help industrial organisations device policy measures to reshape their strategies, in reaching to the individual.

Consuming is one of the common denominators among all of us. Each of us participates in the phenomenon of consumption in our everyday lives. Consumption of one or the other thing is part of an individual‟s natural existence. Consumer psychologists consider consuming as an essential dimension of our day-to-day living; which presses us into modelling and re-modelling of our identities, beliefs, attitudes and practices (Dittmar, 1994). Being a consumer is a social role, which almost everybody experiences quite regularly. Whether one preferred to shop or otherwise, consumption happens to be part and parcel of one‟s existence. This is so because, the buying process starts long before the actual purchase and its consequences last long afterwards.

Each day we make decisions concerning products or services, and many interactions occur in a consumer framework, which is the origin for influencing one another (Dittmar, 1996). Similarly, goods with unique features and luxury products are used for self-expression as well as for the positive perception of others (Wanke, 2009).

Basically, the study of consumer behavior blends elements from psychology, sociology, social anthropology, economics and marketing (Engel, Blackwell and Miniard, 1998). As a field, the essence of social psychology is to view "how aspects of the

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individual are influenced by or relate to other people" (Baumeister and Finkel, 2010, p. 12).

In signifying the focus of social psychological studies on social behavior, Bordens and Horowitz (2008, p. 2) described the field as the "scientific study of how individuals think and feel about, interact with, and influence one another, individually and in groups".

In a similar manner only more applicable to the study under review, Merriam Webster‟s medical dictionary defines social psychology as "the study of the manner in which the personality, attitudes, motivations, and behavior of the individual influence and are influenced by social groups" (Social psychology, Merriam-Webster.com).

According to the field, consumer behavior addresses issues such as: persuasion (media/adverts in luring consumers to buy products); the effects of living in a consumer society (social cognition, value perception, affect, and social behavior); and the impact of the new perspective in terms of technology dynamism, as e-commerce, web advertising, etc (Wyer and Adaval, 2009).

Correspondingly, some of the old-fashioned ideas of people purchasing for economic value, or that consuming is mostly about acquiring needed products and services seems to be fading with time (Dittmar, 1996). Dittmar (1996) further explained that we negotiate our sense of identity, well-being and relationships with others in part through our purchases of material goods.

Wanke (2009) also agrees with the idea of modern societies being consumer societies. People express themselves through their buying. For many, it gives life a sense, a purpose, value and a function. Present-day consumers buy things to reward themselves; to satisfy social and psychological needs; or to make themselves feel good (Kapferer, 1998). Kapferer (1998) further states that, today‟s shoppers (especially applicable to luxury buyers) may purchase things because of brand loyalty, taste for highest quality products, life style, and/or other social factors. They may buy things to make a statement, to show off their personality or to boost their self-esteem, a form of self-expression (Loudon, 1993). Hence, it is no longer enough to think that the consumer acts in a way that makes sense from an economic point of view (Dittmar, 1996). Economics and consumer activities are linked with our attitude, beliefs and shared understanding (Wanke, 2009), bringing us to the central notion of this study- consumer behavior.

Consumer awareness and knowledge level have appreciated dramatically with globalization and technology advancements (Blackwell, Miniard and Engel, 2001). Increasingly informed consumers have characterised our time. Attitudes and expectations are constantly changing in response to a continuous flow of events, information and personal experiences (Mittal, 2006). Thus, the need to conceptualize important consumption behaviors arises with the homogeneity in consumer culture and behavior originating from the effect of globalization (Karraker, 2012); forcing large and growing economies worldwide to revisit their strategies to understand consumers and their respective behaviors.

Evaluation of the future about the actors and forces shaping industrial sector, points to the fact that the future will demand superior efficiency and operational excellence to meet consumer needs (IBM Report, 2005, p. 47).

Consumption continues to maintain a spot at the forefront of any societal role with an increased need to understand consumers‟ and their buying behaviors (Wanke, 2009). Accordingly, a number of studies on the behavior of the consumer have been conducted in every part of the world. With most studies viewing the consumer from the perspective of a recipient; rather than a driving force that creates meaning, and acts upon one's understanding (Rose, Boush and Friestad, 1998).

Research activities are not only limited to the above mentioned perspectives, there are also studies undertaken with the centrepiece of psychological influencing factors (Durmaz, 2014; DeLace, 2011; Wang, Sun and Song, 2011; Mollahoseyni, Esfahani and Jafarzadeh, 2012). However, these studies are either undertaken from marketing perspectives; or are done in different socio-cultural and economic environments. Although it is undeniable that such studies have contributed substantially to the literature on the specific topic, their findings may not be applicable to countries like Ethiopia; due to differences in cultural and economic environments.

According to Eng et al (1995), "Comprehension and adjusting to buyer motivation and behaviour is not an option - it is an outright need for competitive survival." Besides they advise that by understanding factors that influence consumer's purchase intention and buying behaviour can reduce the risk of marketing failures. Solomon (2010) underscores that understanding buyer behaviour is a great business. The more you know your client, the more you gain.

Hoyer and Maclnnis (2000) recognize four impersonal groups that may profit by contemplating consumer behaviour: marketing managers, ethicists, public policy creators and consumers. They illuminate that with the end goal showcasing should be successful, managers need to unmistakably comprehend client's needs and wants and that the study of consumer behaviour gives basic information for creating advertising methodologies and strategies. Ethics can likewise be an issue when studying consumer behaviour. Some marketing practices can fortify customers in negative manners. To keep these propensities, we ought to analyse what impacts the customers and what results it has. Subsequently, consumer behaviour can be assistance for regulators and government offices in creating laws and strategies intended to secure customers.

Therefore, it is very important to understand the consumers in terms of what influences their purchase intentions and buying behaviour towards towards bridge to luxury segment (menswear) in India.

In view of that, studying the  factors influencing the ultimate luxury consumer helps to understand the driving causes, as to why consumers make the purchases that they make? And, which factors most influence consumer purchase decisions?

REESEARCH QUESTIONS

To understand and explain the issue being discussed, the driving research questions of this study focus on the basic factor determinants of consumers‟ buying behavior; along with the demographic variables towards bridge to luxury segment in India  . The theoretical platform of the study is based on review of existing literature on social psychological influencing factors, with specific focus on consumers‟ buying behavior.
The study raised the following research questions:

1) What are the underlying factors influencing consumer buying behavior regarding bridge to luxury products? 


2) What pattern of buying behaviors do consumers exhibit across demographic factors towards bridge to luxury sector? 


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