Tag Archives: wealth

WSJ: Only China Can Save Luxury Sales

Spending On Everything From Luxury Cars To Private Jets Shows Ultrarich Chinese Are Unleashing Their Inner Conspicuous Consumer

The exclusive club of "ultra-rich" in China are splurging amid the ongoing global economic doldrums

The exclusive club of "ultra-rich" in China are splurging amid the ongoing global economic doldrums

An interesting blog post today at the Wall Street Journal, where Robert Frank points out that the global economic downturn has turned a new spotlight onto a once-unlikely savior — the Chinese [ultrarich] consumer. While this group is exclusive to say the least, particularly in terms of the miniscule percentage of the Chinese population that can live up to this title, the staggering dropoff of the once mighty American, Japanese and even Russian luxury showoff has pushed the Chinese super-spender into the leading role.

Though Frank’s potential nicknames for this ultrarich group of big spenders — “Deng Xiaoblings,” for one — are a humorous take on the subject, the repercussions of an Eastward shift of conspicuous consumption and luxury shopping sprees could mean a great deal for established western luxury brands. Just as the increased buying power — and desire for diversification — seen among Chinese buyers of everything from gold to real estate to luxury cars to Chinese antiquities and contemporary arts has affected those markets and caused everyone from Bugatti to Sotheby’s to focus far more strongly on the China market than ever before, this China-bound luxury shift could very well change the nature and corporate strategies of the global luxury industry.

From the WSJ:

Purveyors of posh have a new mandate: Go East!

An updated forecast from Bain & Co. out this morning shows a stronger-than-expected rise in luxury sales for Asia–especially China. It said it expects luxury-goods sales in mainland China to jump 12% this year.

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New Figures On Mainland Chinese Spending Bode Well For Luxury Retailers

Pao Principle Study Shows That Luxury Market Has Less To Fear In The Next Year Than Expected

"Tiffany is King" in mainland China, according to Pao Principle. Tiffany opened boutiques in Beijing & Shanghai in 2006

"Tiffany is King" in mainland China, according to Pao Principle. Tiffany opened boutiques in Beijing & Shanghai in 2006

With luxury retailers looking for any good news in a still-tough market, studies by several organizations in recent months have shown that things are a little less ghastly than expected, particularly in Asian and other emerging markets. The newest of these studies, carried out by business consulting firm Pao Principle, indicates that recent spending trends in mainland China should please luxury handbag, watch, and jewelry producers.

From Travel Agent Central:

According to…Pao Principle, almost 90 percent of individuals surveyed had bought a designer handbag in the past 12 months. Unsurprisingly, men accounted for luxury watch purchases at a ratio of almost two to one over women.

Out of those surveyed who had purchased fine jewelry, Tiffany was king, with almost a third of Mainland Chinese who had purchased fine jewelry in the past 12 month turning to the store for their wares.  Necklaces were the accessories of choice, with “white gold” reigning supreme in overall jewelry purchases.

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Future For Luxury Goods Looks A Little Brighter

Growing Demand In China’s Interior, Other Asian Countries Should Counterbalance Tepid Consumption Elsewhere

Although Chinese consumers have shown a taste for foreign luxury brands, domestic labels will present stiff competition in coming years

Although Chinese consumers have shown a taste for foreign luxury brands, domestic labels will present stiff competition in coming years

As a result of the fast-paced development of China’s eastern coastline and special administrative regions, only recently have major luxury brands made it to the country’s vast interior region, where a number of second- and third-tier cities remain relative blank slates. Since so many companies are only reaching these areas now, the spread of luxury brands in China has become a regular news story. This has only intensified over the last year, as formerly free-spending Japanese and American customers have thought twice about luxury goods while emerging customers in places like the BRIC countries and relatively fast-growing economies like Vietnam become more regular (and brand-loyal) buyers. Nonetheless, the luxury sector is still experiencing only modest growth one year on from the onset of the global economic slowdown despite their best efforts at wooing new customers.

If many recent articles are correct, though, what we’ve seen over the last year — severe as it has been — should only prove to be a blip in the grand scheme of luxury revenues. From Financier Worldwide:

Sales of designer shoes, handbags, and beauty products have weathered the financial storm particularly well. At the end of August, French cosmetics company L’Oréal reported higher than expected profits of €1.37bn for H1 2009. In June, Hermès revealed it was farming crocodiles in Australia to feed demand for its coveted £4000 Birkin bag. Around the same time, Mulberry announced that its handbag sales had recovered, climbing 21 percent in the first 10 weeks of the new financial year. Shoe supplier Kurt Geiger, which operates in upmarket department stores across the UK, also reported double-digit growth in profits for the first five months of the year.

Bain & Company predicts that trading in the developed markets will remain tough for the rest of the year, with growth of around 1 percent in 2010 before a slow recovery. However, despite the recession slowing the pace of development in emerging markets, Bain believes that, as a consequence of increasing personal wealth, growth in global GDP, and rising tourism in Russia, China, India and Brazil, spending will surge between 20 percent and 35 percent over the next five years. This is expected to aid the recovery of the luxury goods sector.

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Art Market Confidence Index Shows 75% Of HK Auction Respondents In The Mood To Buy

As Hong Kong “Stirs From Slumber” And Buyer Confidence Remains High In China, What Can We Expect To See Next Week?

Zeng Fanzhi is one of the historical Chinese contemporary artists up for auction in Hong Kong next week

Zeng Fanzhi is one of the historical Chinese contemporary artists up for auction in Hong Kong next week

We’ve been interested in the upcoming Hong Kong Sotheby’s auctions of Contemporary Chinese, Southeast Asian and other Asian art, with a particularly obvious fixation on the Chinese side, for some time. After the surprising turnout of mainland Chinese, and their willingness to go far above and beyond lot estimates to take home something they’ve set their hearts on, Sotheby’s is likely expecting a good proportion of bidders both from the mainland and other areas of Greater China — definitely Hong Kong, since buyers from that market have been something of a fixture at Chinese art auctions for ages. And while the unpredictable nature of art auctions makes it difficult to forecast how next week’s auctions turn out (although total revenue estimates for all of the Hong Kong auctions are close to US$100 million), many people are excited and motivated to buy some high-quality, historical art.

One thing that makes the auction of contemporary Chinese art even more interesting to me on a personal level is the way it will coincide with “Golden Week,” a week of celebrations coinciding with both Chinese National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival. If last year’s turnout was any indication, Golden Week could draw well over a million mainlanders to Hong Kong this year, most of whom are coming to the city either to shop for expensive objects or eat and drink for days. While Golden Week, on its own, really shouldn’t affect the Sotheby’s sale too much, it is within the realm of possibility that some of the shopping-mad mainlanders might be shipping a Yue Minjun or Liu Ye painting home along with their boxes of luxury goods.

Another reason I’m excited about the Hong Kong sales next week is because of this article, published today by Art Market Insight, which is bullish on the article because of the comparatively fast re-emergence of Hong Kong following the global economic crisis:

Once again, Sotheby’s is weighting its sale in favour of the Contemporary segment (Contemporary Asian Art) which carries the richest of the three catalogues with 190 lots and a total revenue estimate of $12.5m. In order to re-kindle interest amongst its biggest clients, the auctioneer has built a catalogue of very attractive signatures. Among the star lots: a powder drawing by CAI Guoqiang , Money net NO.2, estimated at HKD 4.7m – 5.5m, ($606,000 – $710,000), several paintings by YUE Minjun , including Hats series – The lovers expected to generate around $400,000 (estimated HKD 2.8m – 3.5m), three paintings from the famous Chinese Portrait series by FENG Zhengjie including a superb contemporary Amazon (4 x 3 metres) estimated at $100,000 – $130,000 (HKD 800,000 – 1m). A very similar monumental portrait fetched $133,000 in June 2009 (Phillips de Pury & Company, London, £81,000).

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Rise Of New Chinese Collector Continues As Chinese Antiquities Remain “Recession Proof”

Astronomical Prices Paid For Historical And Quality Pieces In Recent Asian Auctions Defies Global Economic Woes As More Chinese Collectors Get In The Game

In October, Sotheby's will put on a large-scale sale of Asian art in Hong Kong. Will The New Chinese Collector continue to flex his (or her) muscles at that sale?

Since good works by historical artists like Yue Minjun are becoming more scarce, Chinese collectors are expected to continue to flex their muscles in upcoming auctions of Chinese contemporary art

Hardly any industry has escaped the global economic slowdown unscathed, and art is no exception, but recent auction results indicate that the art market — or at least pockets of the art market — are coming back to life. As the Wall Street Journal reports today, in some recent auctions some pieces have sold for exponentially more than their estimates, surprising collectors and market analysts alike. The common bond shared by most of these pieces? They were Chinese — or, if not Chinese, Asian:

Last week, the longest string of Asian art sales since the Zodiac clock dispute was held in the U.S.—and amid the most entrenched art-market recession in nearly two decades, the auction prices of many more than a handful of pieces went through the roof. At the Sotheby’s sale of works from the collection of Arthur M. Sackler, for example, the auctioneer sang out fast-rising numbers, first in English, then Chinese, as if he were rising in the elevator of some fantastically tall Hong Kong skyscraper.

The emergence of the New Chinese Collector is a subject we’ve followed pretty much since our inception, and is a subject that is endlessly fascinating simply because it’s such a new phenomenon. While, technically, Chinese people have collected art for a few thousand years — with the exception of a few Mao-era decades where the practice was virtually nonexistent but for a few elite art lovers here and there — the New Chinese Collector has only existed for around 20 years, and arguably even less than that. This collector base was out in full force in recent auctions of Chinese and other Asian art — in New York, London and Hong Kong — and the motivation, desire and intensity of the Chinese collector is becoming somewhat legendary right before our eyes.

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Mainland Shoppers Set To Flock To HK For Golden Week

1.8 Million Tourists And Shoppers Made The Trip Last Year; Will This Year See Similar Figures?

Photo Courtesy Hong Kong Tourism Board

Photo Courtesy Hong Kong Tourism Board

Hong Kong retailers, hoteliers and merchants of all shapes and sizes are getting ready for the second of two “Golden Weeks” which take place annually in China — the first celebrating Chinese New Year and the second beginning on National Day (Oct. 1) and continuing through the Mid-Autumn Festival (Oct. 3) until finally ending on the 8th. For Hong Kong’s luxury retailers, Golden Week has traditionally provided a much-needed boost to their sales, particularly as fall begins and the flow of foreign tourists slows down significantly.

For many mainlanders, however, Golden Week is a chance to hop over the border and do some serious shopping. As Hong Kong retailers aren’t saddled with the same high sales and luxury taxes as those in the mainland, shoppers from throughout China often take advantage of the timing of Golden Week to enjoy the cultural ambiance of Hong Kong while stocking up on expensive products that would — at home — cost up to double the price.

Today, the New York Times Globespotters blog gives a glimpse into the fun (and chaos) of Golden Week in Hong Kong, when millions of shoppers (many of whom have saved up throughout the year for their HK shopping spree) converge on this small but densely-packed city to queue up for hours and open their wallets:

European designer emporiums, jewelers and gold shops will all be packed, as mainland Chinese rush to buy goods that are both cheaper, and more likely authentic, than back home. (Unlike China, Hong Kong has no sales or luxury taxes.) For upscale shopping, avoid the crowds by trying department stores like Lane Crawford instead.

As far as the local government is concerned, you can’t have too many festivals. During this hectic period, there is also the Hong Kong International Arts and Antiques Fair from Oct. 3 to 6, and the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival from Oct. 1 to 15. Jazz and antiques aren’t big Chinese tourist draws, so they might be another way to escape from the maddening crowds.

In addition to these festivals and events, this year’s Golden Week will also coincide with Sotheby’s Autumn Auction of Contemporary Chinese and Asian Artwork, taking place on October 6 in Hong Kong. It’ll be a great opportunity for luxury buyers who have come over from the mainland to bid on some domestic contemporary artists and maybe take home a few Yue Minjuns, Zeng Fanzhis or Cai Guo-Qiangs in addition to the boatloads of Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Rolexes they’re going to tote back over the border.

Luxury Watch Brand Richard Mille Opens Flagship Store In Beijing

Watchmaking Iconoclast’s New Location At Jin Bao Street’s Legendale Hotel Features Decor And Accents Shipped From Paris

Richard Mille's flagship store in Beijing brings an air of bygone Europe to Beijing's Jin Bao Street

Richard Mille's flagship store in Beijing brings an air of bygone Europe to Beijing's Jin Bao Street

Richard Mille, the French luxury watch brand,has just opened a flagship store in Beijing’s five-star Legendale Hotel, according to a company press release. Mille’s fixation with high-tech materials and unique alloys inspired by F-1 motorsport and the aerospace industry, has made him one of the most unusual — and fastest-rising — luxury watch forces in the world, and with the flood of spending we’ve seen in China on luxury goods like watches, cars, wine, jewelry and contemporary art, Beijing’s flagship Mille store should attract the city’s free-spending elite in no time.

[T]he flagship occupies 260 square meters of space at this platinum 5-star hotel that represents European elegance and luxury in the heart of this capital of the People’s Republic of China. With such a prime address and grand interiors, Sparkle Roll Group Limited, the exclusive dealer of Richard Mille in PRC, invested HK$45 million in building this flagship in Beijing.

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