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Apr 29, 2014 10:29 AM EDT

Rude Sales Staff May Boost Luxury Retail Sales


A snobby sales staff may boost luxury retail sales, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business found that consumers who get the brush-off at a high-end retailer become more willing to purchase and wear pricy clothing.

"It appears that snobbiness might actually be a qualification worth considering for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci," Sauder Marketing Professor Darren Dahl said in a statement. "Our research indicates they can end up having a similar effect to an 'in-group' in high school that others aspire to join."

For the study, participants imagined or had interactions with sales representatives - rude or not.  They were then asked to rate their feelings about the associated brands and their desire to own them.

Researchers found that participants who expressed an aspiration to be associated with high-end brands also reported an increased desire to own the luxury products after being treated poorly.

However, this effect only held true if the salesperson appeared to be an authentic representative of the brand. If they did not fit the part, the consumer was turned off.

Further, researchers found that sales staff rudeness did not improve impressions of mass-market brands.

"Our study shows you've got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work," Dahl said.

Researchers also found that improved impressions gained by rude treatment faded over time. Customers who expressed increased desire to purchase the products reported significantly diminished desire two weeks later.

Based on the study's findings, Dahl suggests that, if consumers are being treated rudely, it's best to leave the situation and return later, or avoid the interactions altogether by shopping online.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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