Press release

The luxury market in China: 2021 a year of contrasts

The luxury market in China: 2021 a year of contrasts

In 2021 China’s luxury market continued the double-digit growth trends of 2020, putting the country on pace to become the world’s largest luxury market by 2025

  • 2022年1月20日
  • min read

Press release

The luxury market in China: 2021 a year of contrasts

SHANGHAI – January 20, 2022 – Despite mounting global social and economic challenges, China’s luxury goods market finished 2021 with strong double-digit growth overall, with some brands exceeding a 70% increase. Chinese consumers have continued to shop mostly in the mainland, given limited international travel options. This has led to a 48% increase of China’s domestic sales of personal luxury goods in 2020, and another 36% in 2021 totalling nearly RMB 471 billion, a near doubling in just 2 years. Domestic spending in the luxury market also continues to be strengthened due to duty-free opportunities, and digitalization. These are among the findings of Bain & Company’s annual China Luxury Report 2021, released today.

Following 2020 trends, market growth has varied significantly across brands, ranging from 10% to more than 70%, and categories. Leather goods was the fastest growing category at about a 60% growth rate, followed by fashion and lifestyle at about 40%. Jewelry spending increases were lower than in 2020, but still managed a growth of about 35%, while high-end watch purchases rose about 30% and luxury beauty spending increased about 20%.

“Globally, mainland China’s share of the luxury market grew from about 20% in 2020 to approximately 21% in 2021,” said Bruno Lannes, partner at Bain & Company and report co-author. “We anticipate this growth to continue, putting the country on track to become the world’s largest luxury goods market by 2025—regardless of future international travel patterns.”

However, 2021 was very contrasted: all categories saw strong year-on-year increases between 40% and 100% in the first half of the year, while growth throughout the second half of 2021 dipped to an estimated 0%–25% year-on-year.

Bain’s research identified three major trends that are expected to shape the luxury market for years to come. Primarily an acceleration of several of the growth engines we noted in 2020, these trends indicate even stronger implications for personal luxury brands in the future.

Hainan offshore duty-free shopping

Hainan’s duty-free stores emerged as a new sizable luxury hub last year, with sales there growing by more than 120% in 2020. In 2021, these sales increased about 90%, reaching nearly RMB 60 billion and contributing about 5% to China’s overall luxury goods market growth. Personal luxury makes up ~95% of Hainan sales, with luxury beauty accounting for more than 50% of that number. As more operators arrive, we expect retail shopping opportunities on the island to continue expanding. With more options for buyers, price competition is likely to become more intense. For example, we estimate Hainan to represent already about 25% of the luxury beauty official market. Hainan is just one pricing disruptor that has affected shopping habits in China, especially the beauty market. Daigou agents, fueled by other travel retail operators, also played an increasingly important role in luxury sales in 2021.

Further digitalization

Digitalization in China is high and increasing, and the trend has further accelerated due to the pandemic. As a result, much of marketing and consumer engagement activities have moved online, even as the offline store remain the primary channel for brand building and purchase conversion. Online luxury sales grew faster than offline across all categories, with online personal luxury sales growing almost 56%, while offline sales grew at 30%.

In 2021, luxury online penetration reached a total of about 19%, excluding duty-free shopping. With duty-free penetration included, total luxury online penetration in China accounted for approximately 26% of sales.

Continued repatriation

In 2020, Covid-19-related travel restrictions led mainland China’s portion of Chinese global luxury purchases to a peak of about 70% to 75% in 2020. In 2021, continued repatriation contributed to this share growing to more than 90%. Beyond 2022, brands should anticipate the progressive re-opening of international travel, with implications on pricing harmonization across geographies. But in the short term, we expect that 2022 will produce low double-digit growth for personal luxury overall. This growth might be slow for the first half of the year with stronger increases in the latter half, factoring in 2021 comparables. 

“Overall, we expect Chinese consumers’ personal luxury purchases to recover to pre-Covid levels between the end of 2022 and the first half of 2023,” said Weiwei Xing, partner at Bain & Company, co-author of the report. “This will be supported by continuous repatriation of spending and boosted by the gradual reopening of international travel, first in Asia and then globally.”

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview, contact Calla Payne at calla.payne@bain.com or +852 6020 7693.

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