Chinese shoppers this year emerged as the biggest spenders in the global luxury market, thanks largely to their sprees in Europe and the United States.
Shoppers from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, accounted for a quarter of global luxury sales this year - for the first time surpassing Americans who bought a fifth of the total, according to global consultancy Bain & Company.
"Changes in what Chinese shoppers want are now a central issue for the global luxury sector's largest brands," said Bruno Lannes, a Bain partner and a lead author of the China Luxury Market Study.
In 1995, Chinese shoppers accounted for just 1 per cent of the global luxury market - while Americans accounted for 27 per cent. By 2015, China will account for one-third of the estimated US$175 billion global market for luxury goods, consultancy McKinsey said on Tuesday.
According to its new report, Chinese consumers now account for about 27 per cent of worldwide luxury consumption, estimated at around US$145 billion this year.
The depreciation of the euro and the lower tax and duty in Europe resulted in a 40 per cent price gap between the mainland and overseas markets, Bain said, citing it as a reason for the spurt in luxury buying.
On the mainland, luxury sales are expected to grow 7 per cent to 115 billion yuan (HK$142 billion) this year, Bain estimates.
The domestic sales figure, or 40 per cent of what the Chinese spend on luxury goods, amounts to about 290 billion yuan in purchases a year.
Last year, overseas purchases of luxury goods represented about half of what Chinese buyers spent in the sector.
The aggregate sales of luxury goods in Hong Kong and Macau are likely to top 66 billion yuan, according to Bain.
"Global brands are very positive on China. They believe the penetration rate is still very low and they also believe they have a role to play in the country."
A sales growth of 7 per cent on the mainland this year, however, is in a stark contrast to the 30 per cent increase recorded last year. Bain said the polices aimed at restricting government spending on luxury items was one of the main reasons for the slowdown.