Chinese tourists

Mainland shoppers divided by different tastes for luxury

Chinese seasoned travellers most likely to buy premier brands in the city, while novice buyers seek mass luxury brands, according to survey

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 2:54am

Buying patterns differ sharply among mainland shoppers in Hong Kong, according to a recent survey by market research company Nielsen.

The number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong annually is more than four times the city's population, and visitor arrivals have been growing by about 23 per cent a year. Most of their expenditure is on shopping.

Last month, Nielsen polled 600 mainland visitors to Hong Kong, evenly split between so-called seasoned and novice travellers.

Seasoned travellers, defined as those who come from top tier cities such as Beijing, have visited Hong Kong more than once and stay longer on each trip, are more likely to buy premium brands, such as Hermes and Chanel, the survey showed. Novice travellers, those from second-tier cities such as Chengdu, are first time visitors to Hong Kong and stay for a shorter period, are more likely to shop for mass luxury brands such as Burberry and Gucci.

"The seasoned [mainland] travellers treasure the trustworthiness and uniqueness of the product much more than the novice travellers," who are attracted by the cheaper prices in Hong Kong relative to the mainland, said Oliver Rust, managing director, Nielsen Hong Kong.

Broken down by categories, seasoned travellers from the top-tier cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, each spent more than HK$10,000 on handbags or HK$17,000 on watches or HK$4,000 on cosmetics or HK$6,000 on electronic products on average per visit, according to the survey.

One factor driving these repeat visitors to Hong Kong is that they can purchase models of luxury items that aren't yet available in the mainland, Rust said. For instance, sought-after electronic goods such as the iPhone5 (released this month was available in Hong Kong before China, creating an incentive for the mainland travellers to come to the city.

The Nielsen survey also showed that shopping patterns of mainland visitors are influenced heavily by word of mouth. Some 76 per cent of the respondents said that they seek advice either from friends or from the internet before they go abroad, compared with 36 per cent in past surveys.

Rust attributed the strong word-of-mouth influence to the high number of internet users on the mainland.