For Chinese consumers, luxury now defined by craftsmanship, reports Mintel

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Published on March 26th, 2014

While high earning Chinese consumers are known for their love of luxury items and the status they can confer, new research from Mintel reveals there is a new characteristic these consumers are looking for – craftsmanship. Indeed, according to Mintel today, ‘craftsmanship’ was claimed by 64% of urban Chinese consumers as the word most defining luxury – ahead of ‘expensive’ at 58% and ‘status’ at 53%.

Furthermore, 71% of those with household income over RMB 25,000 per month define luxury as craftsmanship, a full 10% more than those with household income between RMB 20,000 and 25,000 per month (61%). In addition, a massive 94% agreed that they identify luxury brands as those providing craftsmanship in production and design.

Matthew Crabbe, Director of Research Asia Pacific at Mintel, said:

“It’s no secret that Chinese consumers are becoming more mature in their outlook toward luxury goods. What’s especially compelling about this research is that they show the true extent to which this attitude has penetrated the market, in addition to clarifying what a ‘mature’ attitude to luxury looks like in China. Though status is still important to the Chinese luxury consumer, the trend toward luxury consumption for one’s own enjoyment is clear.”

Conversely, 48% of consumers with household income over RMB 25,000 per month say status is a consideration when they purchase luxury goods. This figure rises to 53% at incomes between RMB 20,000 and 25,000 per month.

“This research highlights that the wealthier a consumer is, the more likely he or she is to appreciate luxury goods for their innate quality and value – and the less likely he or she is to define luxury in terms of external factors such as the status or extravagance of a luxury product.” Matthew continues.

In addition, 46% of urban Chinese consumers with monthly household income above RMB 20,000 noted extravagance as being central to the definition of a luxury good, whereas this number rose to 51% of those with monthly household incomes between RMB 18,000 and 19,000, and again to 53% of those with monthly household incomes of between RMB 12,000 and 18,000.

In tandem with this greater appreciation of quality and more mature outlook on luxury products, Mintel’s data also shows a willingness to explore new brands, as Chinese brands begin to win over consumers in some categories. Indeed, while some categories such as watches and cosmetics are still dominated by foreign brands (79% of urban Chinese consumers said foreign watches are superior to Chinese brands; while 69% said foreign cosmetics are superior to Chinese brands), 43% believe Chinese and foreign luxury clothing brands provide the same quality product, and 15% believe Chinese brands are better. Similarly, 40% believe Chinese and foreign luxury shoe brands provide the same quality shoes, and 16% believe Chinese brands are better.

“Though the trend is still in its infancy, Chinese brands are beginning to make inroads with Chinese luxury consumers,” says Crabbe. “There is a growing consciousness that, in many cases, Chinese brands are able to offer craftsmanship and design to a level that is on par with or above foreign brands. Also, these brands are in some cases more able to tailor their offerings directly to Chinese consumer tastes, so we expect to see a growing segment of the Chinese luxury shoe and clothing markets in particular to be occupied by Chinese brands in the coming years.”

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