How Luxury Brands Alter Shoppers’ Price Perceptions; Buying a Keychain Instead
What is too much to spend on a suit?
The question weighed on Barry Schwarz as he scanned the racks at Boyds men’s store in Philadelphia, which were laden with $3,000 Brioni suits. “Their prices were just out of the world,” recalls Mr. Schwarz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College.
We’ve all been there: A window display or a recommendation lures us into a store — and we face unexpectedly astronomical price tags. It seems to happen more often these days as many luxury brands — selling everything from $14,000 Ralph Lauren handbags to $899 Bugaboo baby strollers and $6,900 Beefeater barbecue grills — push their top price points higher than they’ve ever gone before. What’s priced below falls into that ever-expanding category: “affordable luxury.”
Some people cut and run when confronted with prices that seem crazy. But many of us experience a sudden emotional-mathematical transformation. We set a new ceiling for a “reasonable” price. Disinclined to go all the way to buy the trophy, we instead settle for a consolation prize. Mr. Schwarz, a jeans-wearing type, walked out of Boyds with a suit that cost merely $800 — the most he’d ever spent on an item of clothing.
“If you’re in that world long enough, $800 stops even feeling like a lot of money,” Mr. Schwarz says.