From the ongoing anti-corruption campaign and stock market panic to a rampant gray market and a major Hong Kong slump, global luxury brands have been confronted with a daunting list of China headaches this year. While the situation seems glum, a recent survey finds that these brands’ core female market is still enthusiastic about snapping up Birkins, 2.55s, and Neverfulls.
Released by RBG Capital Markets last week, a new study surveyed the shopping habits of 303 affluent Chinese women between the ages of 25 and 65 intending to buy a $750 handbag within the next 12 months, selecting data from a group of 1,014 respondents polled.
Despite the fact that smaller niche brands and no-logo styles have become more popular with Chinese consumers, the study found that this group of affluent women took a more traditional view toward luxury with Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès listed as the top brands they plan to purchase. A total of 70 percent said brand reputation and design were the key factors in their choice, while more than three-fourths counted recognizable designs and logos as important attributes in a bag.
Price was considered less important than these factors, but this consumer group still had budgets in mind, with a price range of $1,600 and $2,350 hitting the “sweet spot” cost for their new bag.
This affluent group of women also demonstrated strong loyalty toward luxury shopping, with almost all respondents stating that they already owned one bag worth more than $750 and 30 percent stating they own four or more.
This data leads to the question: if demand for mega-brands is still so robust among wealthy Chinese women, why is China’s luxury market seeing such a slowdown? The key, as usual, is likely the fact that they’re buying abroad (which is why Chinese luxury purchases in Europe are still growing and Hermès recently reported that Chinese tourists have been driving its significant Japan sales growth). While this well-heeled group may not be happy with ordering a (possibly fake) bag from a sketchy Taobao daigou merchant just to save some RMB, they are certainly in a position to make their big-ticket purchases while on a trip to Paris or Japan. That’s because it’s not just price driving their international purchase decisions, but also perceptions of higher-quality service and more “face” to be gained from buying luxury items for themselves and family in boutiques abroad.