Luxury for women did not come easy. It has taken them years to break the shackles of patriarchy and carve an identity for themselves. In older times, luxury did not cross the walls of crown- headed estates, and the taste of exclusive items was confined only to female royalty. Having access to rare objects was a far-fetched fairytale dream for middle class women. However, times have changed now, and so has the meaning of luxury for the modern, independent, and self-assured women. The women of today are achievement oriented, live life on their own terms, and know how to maintain a fine balance of work, family, and self-recreation.
“For me, luxury is my independence,” says Aishwarya Joshi, an aspiring lawyer. “It does not have to come the hard way, anything that comes without terms and conditions is luxury for me,” she adds.
There was a time when solo travel was implausible for females of any age. Thankfully, we are now part of an advancing society that views women at par with men, where work or travel-related social restrictions sound passé.
Aneeta Bawa, a homemaker shares similar views, “Luxurious lifestyle for me means traveling, meeting people, spending time with friends; basically, ticking off everything on my bucket list.”
Neha Bhatnagar, a sports management professional opines, “I value positive experiences and living in the moment. Luxury for me is less of wealth, and more of mindfulness.”
While some women associate luxury with mindfulness and spirituality, others carry the generations-old notion of luxury as enjoying the most exclusive and rare items that very few can possess.
Luxury is a subjective construct to define and is mostly explained contextually in relation to a person’s social and financial conditions, and their internal aspirations and desires.
Psychologist Ishita Mehra says, “Let’s say I am attracted to a fancy handbag and I don’t have the money to buy it, for me that is luxury.”
However, what one views as luxury can be a necessity for someone else. Anubha Mahendru, a Digital Executive mentions, “Luxury for me is traveling around the globe, living in the best hotels, wearing the top brands, dining at an expensive restaurant which upscales my living standard”. This sentiment, however, might interestingly see a transition in times to come!
The ‘Great Lockdown of 2020’, as we can call it, is an unprecedented event in the history of mankind. People being locked into their homes are doing stuff on their own and also getting enough time to introspect on things which they really would value in life. This variation has escalated a concern on whether the luxury industry should keep flourishing, as always, or be forced to adapt to changing consumer thought patterns? No denying the fact that this pandemic has rendered a newfangled experience – not only emotionally but physically, psychologically, and economically. And most certainly, the connotation of the word ‘luxury’ or a ‘ luxurious lifestyle’ has altered to some extent.
Suchita Arora, an IT professional says, “This lockdown demands peace of mind, and my indoor workout sessions provide me that peace. Exercise and yoga help me curb my anxieties about future. I also actively follow home-bound skin and diet regimes.”
The post lockdown period has allowed consumers to contemplate on their past purchases. While women have stayed at home, a drastic change in their daily beauty routines supervened. For example, the focus shifted from makeup to skincare. Further, they are inclined towards “green” products, preferring natural brands with cruelty-free and organic stance. Selfcare even expands to health and fitness. Consuming clean and hygienic food and doing home workouts are promoting people to stay fit- physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Aneeta Bawa explains, “For me, the meaning changed from opulent and expensive to thoughtfully planned and economical; from fancy and lush to plain and simple”. The “Stay Home” phase that has dropped-in as a blessing in disguise, allows for more family time, and has given women a chance to evaluate things of importance, and carefully plan the requirements for the future. For the women of today, luxury has now become synonymous with providing freedom to one’s body and soul, enjoying good health, and achieving inner happiness.
Considering all these positive lifestyle changes which consumers are appreciating, the post lockdown time seems to no longer bring back consumers with the same shopping habits. While consumers now reflect on their previous purchases, it becomes a new opportunity for luxury brands to create extreme value along the expectations of consumers. Otherwise, it may even become difficult to stay relevant. With the emergence of a new consumer, luxury brands should now invest more into market research to better understand the needs and aspirations of these evolved consumers. Optimistically, these new consumers might open a wider spectrum of business opportunities for luxury brands. We all know that this extravagant industry is a fascinating amalgamation of storytelling and supreme quality that romances with the dreams of people. As these dreams are shaping up in new fashion, it is the time for brand managers to swing into action and strategize proactively fulfill these secret aspirations and desires. Brands that decode these wishes, and are open to disruption, be it digital or psychological, will win hearts of consumers and create long lasting memories for them. They must re-work their brand positioning and competitive advantage. Most importantly, staying true to their values will nourish the customer-brand relationship even more. It is the adaptive and progressive brands that will sail, others will perish. Period!
This article is based on a qualitative research done on 15 women during the current lockdown period.