Asia Briefing: China set to top luxury spending by 2015

Robert Sleigh, head of Asia wine sales for Sotheby’s, poses for a photograph with an imperial of Chateau Lafite 2000

Robert Sleigh, head of Asia wine sales for Sotheby’s, poses for a photograph with an imperial of Chateau Lafite 2000


It was one of those headlines that barely raise eyebrows in China anymore. Sotheby’s Hong Kong kicked off its 2014 wine season last month with the sale of Finest and Rarest Wines and The Macallan.

The top lot, The Macallan 6-litre “M” Decanter by Lalique, fetched 4.9 million Hong Kong dollars (€470,000), smashing the HK$4 million estimate and setting a new auction record for a single malt whisky, previously held by a The Macallan 64-year-old in a Lalique Cire Perdue crystal decanter, which went for HK$460,000 (€341,000) in 2010.

Despite signs of the economy slowing, the luxury market is stubbornly resilient. A report by digital marketing firm ContactLab showed that Shanghai shoppers have outstripped even their New York counterparts when it comes to spending on luxury goods.

A Morgan Stanley report from last year has also predicted that Chinese travellers could spend up to €144 billion annually in Europe, the US, Asia and other tourism destinations by 2015.

This would put China top of luxury spending by 2015, partly due to the burgeoning size of its urban middle class.

China’s urban middle class is expected to account for more than a quarter of the population by the end of the decade.

The ContactLab survey of 975 shoppers in Beijing and 922 in New York, conducted over the past year and carried on the Jing Daily website, showed that residents of Shanghai, China’s financial capital, spent an average of $1,000 (€741) on their last purchase. This was double the New York spend of $500.

This is not all down to people being flash. Heavy duties on imported goods mean many things are simply much more expensive in Shanghai, and in China generally. But the survey showed that 86 per cent of shoppers in Shanghai were buying clothes and shoes to give as gifts, compared with 72 per cent and 71 per cent for New Yorkers, respectively.

On handbags, 79 per cent of those in Shanghai were buying them for gifts, compared to only 60 per cent in New York.

Future spending patterns are also telling: 91 per cent of Shanghai consumers saide they would be happy to spend the same amount in the coming six months, compared with 77 per cent in New York.

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