Although Chinese consumers are among the world's biggest spenders on luxury goods, they do not always get the treatment they deserve from top brands, an industry expert says.
Ouyang Kun, the head of the Beijing office of the World Luxury Association, an independent market research group, said Chinese consumers often paid 'a luxury price' for international big brands but did not get 'the luxury services' that the brands would offer in other markets.
Ouyang said many luxury brand stores in China often lacked the variety of their counterparts in Europe or the United States, and Chinese consumers had to go overseas to buy the latest collections. In addition, many sales staff lacked proper training in serving customers.
Chinese customers often had to wait as long as three to six months for repairs to luxury goods because they were sent back to factories in Europe, he said.
In extreme cases, stores would tell customers their goods were being shipped to Europe for repair although they were actually being fixed in a factory in Guangdong or Southeast Asia.
'Some luxury goods sellers see China as a place to make easy money. They bring in the goods but fail to deliver in terms of delivering value for money on the brand,' Ouyang said.
A recent survey by global consultancy Bain & Co said China had become the third-largest luxury market in the world, after the United States and Japan.
Sales of luxury goods in China rose to 113 billion yuan (HK$139 billion) last year from 87 billion yuan in 2010. Thanks to the mainland's growing affluence, new customers are expected to underpin continued strong sales growth of 30 per cent this year.
Ouyang does not expect economic jitters about the global outlook to dampen the mainland appetite for top-tier goods.
'Chinese people's habit of saving money will help when the outside economy weakens,' he said, adding that sales of luxury cars, high-end jewellery and watches continued to rise in 2008 during the depths of the first wave of the global financial crisis.
The association yesterday named the 100 most valuable luxury brands in the world in 10 categories based on a survey of analysts around the world and Chinese consumers.
Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior were the top brands in the most valuable luxury fashion brand category, while Gulfstream, Bombardier and Dassault were the top three in the private aircraft sector.
In yachting, the top brands were Azimut, Sunseeker, Ferretti and Lurssen.
L'Or de Jean Martell, Louis XIII and Richard Hennessy were the leading wines and spirits.
Other categories included luxury cars, high-end jewellery watches, cosmetics, hotels and resorts.
'There's a misconception among Chinese consumers that luxury goods just mean super-high prices,' Ouyang said. 'We named these top brands in the hope of telling Chinese consumers which are the most influential luxury brands in the world. And we hope these brands can offer the services that match their brand value for Chinese consumers.'
On Tuesday, Ferretti became Chinese-owned, after machinery maker Shandong Heavy Industry bought a 75 per cent stake in the debt-laden yachtmaker, whose Riva unit made boats for stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Sean Connery.
The growth in retail sales of consumer goods on the mainland in the first 11 months of last year