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China's shoppers fund luxury tycoons

(Shanghai Daily)

10:37, March 07, 2013

CHINESE consumers continue to make a significant contribution to the wealth of the world's top luxury tycoons, according to a Hurun Research Institute report released yesterday.

The average wealth of the people on the Hurun Luxury Tycoon Rich List is double that of Hurun's global rich list, with the combined assets of the 33 wealthiest people in the luxury industry totalling US$289 billion, Hurun said. The list has a US$1 billion threshold.

Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report, said Chinese consumers helped those tycoons make roughly 20 percent of their money.

"The Chinese luxury consumer is today the most important customer group in the world for luxury brands, especially now that the Chinese luxury consumer has started to travel around the world," Hoogewerf said.

Luxury sales on the Chinese mainland are reckoned to have grown just 7 percent last year, compared to a 30 percent surge in 2011, according to consulting firm Bain & Company, with China's shoppers buying 60 percent of their luxury items abroad.

As this trend grows, luxury stores in China will serve more as a shop window for brands, Hoogewerf said.

Bernard Arnault of LVMH, whose fashion house Louis Vuitton is the preferred brand for gifting by Chinese millionaires according to the Hurun Chinese Luxury Consumers Survey 2013, tops the tycoon list with a US$51 billion fortune.

Liliane Bettencourt of L'Oreal comes second with US$30 billion, followed by Bertrand Puech and family of Hermes with US$24 billion.

They are among seven people on the list who live in Paris, home to more luxury tycoons than any other city.

The Chinese mainland holds no place in the luxury billionaires' club.

Not because it doesn't produce luxury goods, Hoogewerf said. Furniture made from precious wood, liquor from Moutai and Wuliangye, and health products such as Cordyceps sinensis are sold at extremely high prices, he said.

However, some producers don't see themselves as producing luxury goods that fit in a category dominated by French names. Chinese brands still lack international renown, Hoogewerf said.

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