Millennials prefer the experience of buying a luxury item than just accumulating stuff.

Expensive. Want, but not a need. Unnecessary.

Those were a few thoughts shared by Millennials in the latest Shullman Research Center study on “Millennials: Their Current and Future Need for Luxury.” The study was conducted in collaboration with the Luxury Marketing Council of Connecticut-Hudson Valley and sponsored by GenSpring Family Offices. It included an exploratory survey of 46 respondents and a focus group discussion with five Millennials. The concentration of the study was on two topics — how Millennials describe luxury and their current and future need for luxury products and services.

The top two keywords used by respondents to describe luxury were expensive and unnecessary. And while unique and quality were descriptive words one might expect to hear, luxury didn’t always mean a product to them. One individual said: “Exclusive. Unique. I see travel experiences and enriching moments.” That said, what did resonate with some of the respondents was the actual purchase of a luxury good. For these individuals, it was the experience — particularly when the buying was matched with superb customer service — that resonated with them.

And while the top three luxury brands named were Chanel, Hermès and Rolls Royce, two-thirds of those who participated said luxury was either something they “definitely don’t need” or “probably don’t need.” One person who said luxury was a “definite need” explained that luxury is “something that you have to at least own one piece. It should be an experience such as travel abroad. It’s not something you do regularly, but occasionally, it’s a definite.”

For those who didn’t think luxury was a necessity, some described it as something extra. And those who said they didn’t need luxury had different reasons for that conclusion. One said, “Luxury involves money. Money is a thing. Things don’t make people happy.” Another person defined it as a “bonus….Would I love to have more luxurious items, obviously, but you have to live within your means/budget.” And another respondent said, “With so many cheaper alternatives to luxurious goods, something high-priced is not a need when you can buy something that practically does the same thing but comes at a cheaper rate.”

The five Millennials in the focus group expressed a desire to buy “big treats” for themselves in a traditional brick-and-mortar store, but only after doing research digitally. And while many use Uber, they also expressed an interest in buying a luxury car. Further, Millennials growing up in China said that while they were encouraged by family and friends to invest in high-end, luxury fashion and apparel — the strong branding associations and logo were a way of communicating the ability to purchase these items — they also “downgraded” their purchases to more aspirational luxury brands after coming to the U.S. to better fit in with their new peers.

Shullman Research said it plans to dig deeper into these insights with a follow-up study involving a larger survey group.

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