Debunking six myths about the Chinese luxury consumer

Low Lai Chow

"There is a lot of confusion when people talk about luxury in China," Francis Belin, svp/consumer goods for Greater China at Swarovski, the crystal jewellery and accessories group, told delegates at the Festival of Media Asia Pacific 2014.

More specifically, Belin argued, many observers believe that the country's affluent shoppers have "switched dramatically from high-end luxury to more middle class" purchases. And he summed up the appropriate response to such a claim in simple terms: "It's not true."

What has changed, Belin reported, is the habit of giving gifts to influential political figures, not least because Communist Party members and officials have been warned about an imminent crackdown on corruption. "It's just that one market [which] has disappeared," said Belin. "As a matter of fact, a lot of luxury brands – the chic watches, the expensive handbags, liquor – are very exposed to this."