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Luxury Brands Refocus On China

Studies Indicate Sluggish Demand In Established Markets Will Continue As Buyers Remain Motivated In China

According to new studies, Chinese luxury enthusiasts may help buoy the global luxury market for the next few years, if not drive long-term growth

According to new studies, Chinese luxury enthusiasts may help buoy the global luxury market for the next few years, if not drive long-term growth

Luxury brands have had what can conservatively be called a tough year, with the global economic crisis putting a gaping wound in their profits in traditionally high-demand countries like the US and Japan, and recovery lagging behind expectations. These figures have been tempered somewhat by the potential of the Chinese market to soften the blow of falling demand elsewhere, if not counteract it completely. While it is still a bit quixotic to expect China to be the savior of luxury brands everywhere — since it is still very much a developing market — it does benefit luxury brands to plan ahead for the time when China is the world’s biggest luxury market, and start brainstorming on their long-term strategy for sustained growth as well as strong brand loyalty.

This week, Harvard Business looked into the Chinese luxury market, digging through statistics to discern whether this market truly is all it’s cracked up to be. While their findings suggest that hyperbolic enthusiasm about the Chinese consumer is unwarranted — as we’ve written before — they do remain bullish about the potential of this populous and fast-moving market:

New research from McKinsey & Co. indicates that, by 2015, China will be home to the world’s fourth-largest population of wealthy households, an estimated 4.4 million. McKinsey also reports that presently, about 80% of China’s wealthy are between the ages of 18 and 45 (versus 30% in the US). Jing Ulrich, the chairman of China equities at Morgan Stanley, was recently quoted in Forbes as saying of China, “With the global recovery unlikely to be smooth, domestic demand is likely to remain the primary engine of growth in the remainder of 2009.” In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last year, Zachary Karabell argued that “the rise of the Chinese consumer is the only thing standing between them [global companies] and a decline in their business.”

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