BEIJING: Shoppers in China continued to increase their outlay on luxury goods last year, at a time when consumers in many major markets were reining in their expenditure.

According to the World Luxury Association, spending levels on high-end products reached $9.4 billion (€6.9bn; £6.2bn) in the Asian nation over the course of 2009, some 27.5% of the global total.

This means that the world's most populous state is now the second-largest outlet for premium goods worldwide, behind only Japan, where trading conditions have proved particularly adverse since the onset of the financial crisis.

Moreover, the organisation predicted that the value of the Chinese market would climb to $14.6bn in five years time, when it will be the biggest single source of category sales.

Rupert Hoogewerf, publisher of the Hurun Report, which tracks the preferences and behaviour of high net worth individuals in the fast-growing economy, said a "new nobility" was emerging.

According to figures from the Report, there are some 825,000 people worth more than 10 million yuan in China at present, and 51,000 with a personal fortune of over 100 million yuan.

It also estimated that the typical billionaire in Beijing buys 6.88 million yuan ($1m) worth of goods a year, with 57% of millionaires spending between 1 million yuan and 3 million yuan in the same timeframe.

Estée Lauder posted a 26% improvement in its revenues in the country in the last quarter, and Fabrizio Freda, the firm's president/ceo, was bullish about its future prospects.

"We have a big part of our portfolio in China ... It's really the important area of growth and development we are focusing on," he said.

Looking forward, Freda forecast that China, Hong Kong and Taiwan could cumulatively deliver around 8% of sales in the next five years.

Fflur Roberts, a global luxury goods manager at Euromonitor International, the research firm, suggested this positive impetus could be extended to cover the regional level.

"Apart from Japan, the Asia-Pac countries have seen positive growth and many luxury brands are now looking to the region as a means of gaining revenue and keeping afloat during these difficult times," she said.

Data sourced from Global Times/Associated Press; additional content by Warc staff