Louise Vuitton bags, Cartier wrist watches, Dior perfume and Dunhill suits. All these luxury brands have found flocks of fans among young people in their 20s and 30s in China.
More and more young Chinese have become big-spending consumers. A recent survey of young urbanites on the Chinese mainland found around two thirds of them willing to "seize every opportunity to enjoy life" and prone to buy high-end consumer goods.
The trend has drawn attention among media and sociologists.
Young big-spending cosumers
With a monthly salary of 5,000 yuan (US$616) that is not affluent on the mainland, Miss Yu, a 25-year-old journalist in Shanghai, usually dropped in some boutiques of prestigious brands from Europe and the United States every month to appreciate new arrivals there. Sometimes, she settled on a certain item and made a purchase without hesitation, with a quick glance of the price tag.
But Yu said she would not spend money equivalent to her salary for half a year or to two years' salary for a Chinese blue-collar worker on an item of luxury goods. She did not like the feeling of being in debt and would only bought something affordable.
She had three foreign languages at her fingertips and a lot of spare time to take part-time jobs.
"I think a bag of 10,000 yuan (US$1,233) worth is more suitable for me. It is better than 100 bags of 100 yuan (US$12.33) worth," Yu said.
Boasting a collection of Chanel, GUCCI, Burberry and Prada, Yu was not unique among young people, particularly young white-collar workers in China.
Radha Chadha, a member of the board of a consulting firm based in Shanghai, is writing a book on China's Yus.
Like many other researchers on luxury goods consumption in China, Radha Chadha classified the Chinese big-spending consumers into three groups. The first one were those really well-to-do. They bought luxury goods just for showing off their wealth and status. The second group were white-collar workers, especially company managers, who took luxury goods to exhibit their tastes for elegance. The third mainly included "cool" boys and girls of about 25 years of age, who enjoyed luxury goods on the basis of overdrafts.
"Actually, among China's luxury goods enthusiasts, there are a limited number of really rich people," said Yang Qingshan, secretary-general of China Brand Strategy Association.
A survey of netizens from Shanghai and eastern Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces showed that 56.7 percent of the respondents once saved for a certain period of time for purchasing luxury goods.
Tony Wang, a senior executive with an advertisement company in Shanghai, has recently had a new diet--only some fruits and a cup of coffee--at lunchtime, though he earned more than 20,000 yuan (US$2,466) a month. He did not try to reduce weight, but kept saving for a luxury portfolio valued at more than 30,000 yuan (US$3,699).
A culture or sheer extravagance
Carrying a Bally suitcase, wearing an Armani suit and casually taking out a Mont Blanc to sign. This is a typical image of a senior white-collar worker described by Professor Du Junfei with the Nanjing University based in the capital city of Jiangsu Province.
Behind the glitz, however, there are extremely huge pressure and feeling of being hollowed out in terms of wisdom and energy, Du added.
Du said the growth of market for luxury goods in China resulted from economic prosperity but would in turn allure some young Chinese into unreasonable consumption.
"On the average, luxury goods consumption accounts for 4 percent or so of a consumer's assets in the world. But in China, the proportion is as much as 40 percent and even higher," Du pointed out.
"There exists possibility for luxury goods to be distorted as a sort of pure worldly pleasure without spiritual significance in China," said Yu Hai, a sociologist with the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai.
According to Yu Hai's analysis, some well-to-do businessmen on the mainland would take luxury goods as labels of status and lifestyle. However, Yu Hai, in his optimistic point of view, suggested the young luxury-goods buffs should end sheer worship of luxury goods and establish awareness of cultural conotation in such commodities and eventually, help create China's own luxury brands.
(Xinhua News Agency November 18, 2005)