China retail luxury: a long-term insight

China: a market that is continuously growing, a very rich but still unknown to the many. What is clear is that China is set to become the most powerful economy in the world, and this will happen in a very short time. Many are the companies that have already sucessfully entered the Chinese market, luxury good brands being the pioneers.

A McKinsey survey over 1.500 Chinese luxury consumers during spring 2010, shows interesting trends which are basically telling to the world that the “consumer culture” is changing at a very high speed, following the changes in the society and urban landscape. For those who are interested, the whole report can be downloaded here, but three are main facts:

  • “Rapid increases in wealth, and shifting social mores that sanction the display of that wealth, are driving a growing infatuation for luxury goods among Chinese consumers.”
  • “Access to an explosion of information on the Internet, an increasing penchant for overseas travel, and first-hand experience purchasing and consuming luxury goods are contributing to a substantial rise in sophistication among luxury consumers in China. Contrary to popular belief, a growing number of Chinese luxury consumers are exhibiting a noticeable trend away from overt displays of wealth, and towards more understated forms of luxury consumption.”
  • “Rapid urbanization and growing wealth outside of China’s largest cities is driving the emergence of several new geographic markets with sizable pools of luxury goods consumers. Over the next 5 years, [McKinsey] expects that the number of such cities will double from 30 to 60.”

Other key findings are social-demographics related. Not only traditional luxury brands consumers, but also 13 million upper-middle-class households (earning $15,000 to $30,000), which are stretching their budgets to buy luxury watches, jewelry, handbags, shoes and clothing. This segment represented 12% of Chinese luxury consumption in 2010, but is expected to reach 22% by 2015.

The survey also shows that approximately 73% of luxury consumers in China are under age 45, significantly younger than their counterparts in western nations or even nearby Japan. 

All these findings essentially reinforce the widespread idea that if this trend is going to be followed in 2011 too, China will become the biggest retal luxury market in the close future. (Source: McKinsey, Picture credits: TheChinaObserver)