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Shanghai Luxury Shoppers Outspend New York Counterparts

Shanghai at night on Sept. 28, 2013

Photograph by Getty Images

Shanghai at night on Sept. 28, 2013

Even as China’s President Xi Jinping leads a national austerity and anticorruption drive, luxury shoppers in Shanghai continue to shell out for fancy items—and on average they’re spending more than New Yorkers, according to a new study by Milan marketing firm ContactLab.

In a survey of nearly 1,000 luxury buyers in each city, Shanghaiese spent, on average, $1,000 on their last purchase, while New Yorkers spent $500. Ninety-one percent of Shanghaiese plan to make a similar purchase in the next six months, compared with 77 percent of New Yorkers.

New Yorkers listed their top sources of information and inspiration for high-end clothing purchases as fashion magazines and official brand websites. Meanwhile, Shanghai shoppers said they turned most frequently to friends, colleagues, and family for shopping advice. And they were more likely to purchase items as gifts, with 79 percent of handbag buyers in Shanghai saying they were buying for someone else.

According to a December 2013 study by Bain & Co., Chinese shoppers now account for 29 percent of global spending on luxury goods. The government’s antigraft campaign seems to have hit sales in only certain product categories—in particular, total spending on luxury watches in China in 2013 was down 11 percent from the previous year. (A corrupt official with a penchant for flaunting Rolexes, nicknamed “Brother Watch,” was sentenced in September to 14 years in prison for accepting bribes.) Yet total sales of women’s luxury apparel and cosmetics in China both jumped 10 percent in the past year.

Money and taste don’t always go hand in hand. An analysis by Global Language Monitor&mdsh;an Austin (Tex.) company that “analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the top 250,000 print and electronic news media, as well as new social media sources (such as Twitter)” to track city mentions “in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets”—has produced a ranking of metropolises that exert the most sway over global fashion tastes. New York ranked No. 1 and Shanghai No. 10. Beijing didn’t make the top 55.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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