The growing presence of Chinese travellers on the luxury shopping circuit of the US and Europe is well known, but catering to ordinary Chinese and the country’s growing band of super rich are two different things, as the FT reports.
The wealthy don’t want bus tours and showy logos. Instead they are looking for VIP treatment and knowledge about the history and manufacturing of luxury brands. But China experts say there is also a dark side.
Some of the wealth in China is the result of corruption or other illicit behaviour – and luxury shopping away from the mainland is one way to launder it, according to the Economist.
That helps explain why the wealthy are often keen to guard their privacy – a desire that can conflict with the cosy we-want-to-get-to-know-you approach of many upscale luxury brands.
There are also political reasons for moving money away from the mainland, which explains why shopping trips are sometimes combined with research into buying a home in the US.
Many rich Chinese are plagued by worries that, in the event of trouble, the country’s institutions will not help them protect even legitimately-earned wealth.
In the year of a leadership transition at the top of the Chinese Communist party, which spells prolonged political uncertainty, those worries will be more pronounced than ever.