It's been well-documented that the vast majority of luxury goods sold in China last year were sold to men between the ages of 30 and 44, with around 50% of those items being purchased with the intent of giving them as gifts (either to business acquaintances, wives or girlfriends, or mistresses). However, as a recent HSBC report found, though men are likely to remain the main buyers of luxury goods in China for the next several years, the rising spending power of middle- and upper-middle class women has convinced many in the Chinese luxury industry that "the future is female."
If this is the case, the future has already come to the second-tier city Chengdu -- the capital of Sichuan province -- where, according to SouFun, women now make 70% percent of luxury purchases at the city's top luxury malls. From the article:
At the three luxury malls I visited yesterday, roughly 70% of the items sold were purchased by women. Of these women, around half were from the Chengdu metro area.
The business maxim "the easiest money comes from women and children" is certainly true here in Chengdu. In terms of clothing, each department store has two floors devoted to women's clothes compared to just one for men. According to a representative at Renhe Spring Department Store (仁和春天百货), sales of women's clothing still account for most of the store's revenue.
It's understood that 70% of the registered members are female at Renhe Spring, and women make around 70% of the store's purchases. Among the VIP clients at Maison Mode Lessin, 75% are female. Female customers at Seibu also make more than 60% of purchases. Due to this female demand, a number of newer malls in Chengdu have hired men as client advisors and client managers.
[Renhe Spring representative] Zhai Xue said that out of their last 10 VIP guests, eight were female, mainly between the ages of 35-45. Wu Shunzu of Maison Mode Lessin said that the mall already has about 25,000 VIP customers, most of whom are also female, and that even the top male consumer on the top VIP list can't match the spending power of its top female shoppers. Men have already dropped out of the mall's top 10 consumer list, with the top-ranked male shopper at #13.
Market sources told us that the majority of luxury customers in Chengdu are private business owners, senior management, foreign executives, public figures and so on, with their common features including a good professional background, impressive buying power, and a desire to express their personal identity through consumption. Additionally, we were told that Chengdu's high-end consumers are getting younger, with some people in their early 20s already dipping into the luxury market.