Move over, wolves of Wall Street, a new wave of investors are taking center stage, and they come toting luxury handbags. Meet China’s dama (大妈): affluent women aged 40-60 who, after sending their kids to school and watching television dramas, channel their excess energy into buying gold, luxury products, and even bitcoins as investment.
The dama, a term of respect for older women, came to global attention in August last year when the Wall Street Journal first caught wind of these middle-aged women frenetically buying gold when gold prices dipped to historic lows in China. Eschewing the volatile stock markets, dama prefer the stability of hard assets and the ability to hand wealth down to their children, but their fervor is causing an unintentional side effect—as reported by Want China Times, these eagle-eyed women “have been credited with driving China’s gold market and the 28 percent global fluctuation in gold prices” in 2013. Their buying spree resulted in a 41.4 percent national increase in gold consumption last year, leading China to surpass India as the world’s largest gold consumer.
Now, in an unlikely turn of events, these investment-minded shoppers have set their sets on a new area of investment: bitcoins. China became the world’s biggest market for the digital currency last year. On its largest bitcoin trading platform, huobi.com, 40 percent of the major clients with transactions higher than 10 million yuan (US$1.7 million) are female investors. These dama investors rely on “women’s intuition” to invest in the digital currency, according to Xinhua. “You don’t have to understand the complicated mechanisms,” said an unnamed dama to the Chinese news outlet, “As long as it makes money, it’s good.”
The dama is also relentless at luxury malls. “China’s women are simply too incredible. Every time sale season comes around, wealthy housewives and classy white-collar girls would grab seven to eight classic edition bags in a go,” says a Hong Kong Louis Vuitton sales manager to Xinhua. “To them, they’re not afraid that they have bought too much; rather it’s that they haven’t bought enough.” However, these experienced bargain hunters may not just be buying eight identical bags for themselves. As covered by Jing Daily, mainland Chinese shoppers taking advantage of Hong Kong’s lower taxation on luxury goods have been smuggling them back to sell for a profit.
While these dama are attracting a lot attention and wealth with their overly enthusiastic attitude toward investments, they are also attracting some amount of ridicule with the moniker. According to Xinhua, dama feel that the term is seen on the international stage as being an “ignorant” investor, and dislike being associated with it.
Thankfully, for these gold-loving, handbag-toting investors, there are parties who see their profit potential. Deutsche Bank wealth manager Fan Huang tells Xinhua, “China’s dama are not just middle-aged women, but are women who understand the importance of investments. While having a rudimentary understanding of technicalities, they are adept at picking up trends, and certainly have the capital to act on them.”