Snobbery sells: rude sales staff boost luxury brands’ cachet, says UBC study

Negging for leggings

Louis Vuitton Store

(Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty)

When the Jerk Store calls, consumers answer, at least when it comes to luxury brands. According to new research from UBC’s Sauder School of Business, snobby sales staff can actually drum up more sales in prestige stores.

From the UBC press release:

“For the study, participants imagined or had interactions with sales representatives—rude or not. They then rated their feelings about associated brands and their desire to own them. 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.

The study, to be published in the October 2014 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research, found no such effect when it comes to mass-market brands.

“You’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work,” Sauder marketing professor Darren Dahl said in the release.

The Canadian luxury retail market is expanding fast. Big name U.S. brands Saks and Nordstrom are both entering the market in force the next two years. Homegrown Holt Renfrew, meanwhile, is looking to increase its retail space by 40% by the end of 2015.

If the UBC study is any guide, the winner in the new luxury war may end up being the one, not with the best products, but with the most mean girls (and guys) on staff. “Our research indicates they can end up having a similar effect to an in-group in high school that others aspire to join,” Dahl says.