SINGAPORE (Reuters) - What's Christmas without a little indulgence and a lot of guilt, with a global survey showing two in three people occasionally treat themselves to a luxury purchase, but a third then feel bad about it.
The survey of 8,100 people by market research firm Synovate also showed that luxury really was what you made of it, with over a third defining it as everything above what is necessary. Nearly a fifth said it was having time to do whatever you wanted.
"Some of us feel we deserve it and revel in unabashed luxury. Some indulge in it, but feel they maybe should not have. Some cannot afford it, but want it. And for many, it's simply not even a consideration," Synovate's luxury research expert, Jill Telford, said in a statement.
"Of course, a recession makes luxury retail even more challenging. Selling things that arguably people do not need during a time when many are at least morally forced to examine their spending patterns makes for interesting times."
While luxury goods are, in essence, supposed to make people feel good, the survey of respondents across Europe, Asia and the Americas revealed that 32 percent of luxury buyers flagellate themselves after making their purchase.
This was especially prominent in Britain, where 72 percent said they treated themselves to luxury, but then half -- mostly women -- reported feeling guilty about it.
A majority in the United States also had the same conflicted relationship with luxury, the survey showed.
"The luxury goods market in the U.S. has been hit hard by the economy. Many retailers have now designed product and pricing strategies that appeal to a more austere, guilt-ridden consumer," said Mark Berry, the head of consumer research and retail for Synovate in the United States.
At the other end of the scale, a majority of respondents in India, Brazil and the Netherlands say they do not feel guilty after a luxury purchase, mainly because Indians and Dutch are "sensible" about spending their money while Brazilians tend to be more "hedonistic," the survey said.
A majority of luxury lovers also tend to love showing off their purchases. Nearly half of all respondents said they preferred to buy items with a obvious designer logo, especially in India, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, where many people believe in the adage "if you've got it, flaunt it."
There are those who like a more subtle approach, with the survey showing that many Brazilians, French and British prefer luxury goods without a logo that screams in your face.
And the ultimate luxury item? Synovate asked people what was the one thing that they could buy, if money was no object, and would give them the most pleasure.
The number one answer? A luxury car, followed by fine jewelry, designer clothes and gadgets.
The survey was conducted in October 2009 across 11 markets:
Brazil, Canada, France, Hong Kong, India, Netherlands, Spain, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States.
Synovate is the market research arm of Aegis Group PLC.
Editing by Ron Popeski