As outbound Chinese travel numbers soared in 2015, their love for shopping continued as they bought 46 percent of all luxury goods globally, according to a new report.
China-based luxury consultancy Fortune Character reported this week that Chinese consumers spent 1.2 trillion yuan ($183 billion) abroad last year, a number up from $165 billion in 2014, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO). Luxury played a big role in their shopping habits, with $116.8 billion of that spending going to luxury goods.
Outbound Chinese tourist numbers reached 120 million in 2015, according to WTO figures, and Chinese luxury shoppers continued to shift their spending abroad to avoid high tariffs. While China’s domestic luxury market shrank by 2 percent last year, according to Bain & Company, overseas luxury purchases grew by 10 percent.
Fortune Character and Bain & Company differ dramatically, however, when it comes to the estimate of the total amount Chinese travelers actually spent on luxury abroad in 2015. Bain’s estimate is less than half of Fortune Character’s, with an assertion that they spent only 293 billion yuan, or about US$45.1 billion on luxury. This difference could possibly be due in part to the ways each firm chooses the brands and categories to define “luxury,” as Fortune Character says its estimate includes cosmetics and mobile gadgets.
This wasn’t the first time Fortune Character and Bain have had differences when it comes to China luxury market statistics—last year, Fortune Character asserted that China’s domestic luxury market decreased by 11 percent, an estimate much lower than Bain’s assertion that it saw a 1 percent decline.
Regardless of which firm had the more accurate research methodology, it’s clear that Chinese consumers are continuing to do a huge chunk of their luxury shopping abroad thanks to the continued price gap between imported goods on the mainland and those elsewhere. This was especially beneficial to Japan last year, which featured a favorable currency situation that attracted Chinese tourists as they avoided South Korea (during the MERS crisis) and Hong Kong, while Europe and Australia were also able to cash in on the Chinese shopping boom.