Trends seen in rise of China’s ultra wealthy

China is expected to underpin growth in the world’s ultra-high-net-worth population, creating opportunities for luxury retailers, particularly with young Chinese women.
Trends seen in rise of China’s ultra wealthy

Luxury retail sales growth in China is still expected to expand at a double-digit clip despite signs of a slowdown, as the nation’s ultra wealthy population and their net worth continues to fall.

According to Wealth-X, a data and research firm on the global ultra-high-net-worth community, the number of ultra wealthy with $30 million or more in China shrank 2.3% year-on-year to 11,245 in 2012.

In terms of their level of wealth, that sank 6.8% year-on-year to just under $1.6 trillion; this was led by China’s 147 billionaires, who saw their net worth fall by almost 30% to $380 billion.

But Wealth-X remains upbeat on the prospects for luxury retail sales growth, which it expects to grow by 10% or more in the year ahead. Chinese UHNW consumers are forecast to spend nearly $6 billion on luxury goods (excluding property and services) this year.

The firm notes that Chinese UHNW consumers are less price-sensitive than European peers, and are increasingly travelling to European cities including Paris and London to buy luxury items at up to 40% discounts while using an appreciating renminbi to their advantage.

Wealth-X suggests this trend of luxury tourism may lead retailers to increase the prices of luxury products sold in Europe to make their products more competitive in mainland China.

It also points to China’s female UHNW population as an area rich in promise for luxury brands. It finds there are 2,725 ultra-wealthy women in China (24% of the country’s UHNW population), with an average net worth of $119 million.

Of these, 39% are under 40, presenting a significant opportunity for luxury brands that cater to the younger generation.

“The opportunities for luxury retailers are immense and their success depends on their ability to thoroughly understand the Chinese UHNW market,” says Wealth-X chief executive Mykolas Rambus. “The rising wealth of Chinese female UHNWIs offers significant growth potential.”

Wealth-X has forecast that the world’s UHNW population will grow at an average of 7.9% annually over the next five years, with China expected to account for the majority of this growth as its economy continues its transformation from investment-driven to consumption-led.

Of the luxury items that ultra-wealthy Chinese are buying, Wealth-X lists automobiles, fine art and collectibles and private aviation as the most promising.

Already Maserati and Ferrari have reported sales in China exceeding those in Europe and North America, with Bentley and Porsche expected to follow. China is already the largest market for Rolls Royce, and BMW has seen car sales climb 34% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, China accounted for more than 40% of global auction revenue for fine art last year, with the Chinese art market expanding at 177% in 2010 and 65% in 2011; Christie’s reported a 31% rise in Asian clientele and has partnered several auction houses in mainland China.

Further, Wealth-X notes there are only an estimated 130 private jets in China compared with 10,000 in the US. “This presents major opportunities for private aviation companies such as Dassault, Falcon, Cessna and Embraer, who have all expanded their presence in China recently,” it finds.

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