Chinese travelers’ luxury spending in Europe, on the rise

Chinese tourists spent a record amount on luxury goods last month, helped by shopping sprees in Europe as the weak euro made items cheaper than at home, VAT refund company Global Blue said.

Spending by Chinese tourists, the biggest buyers of luxury goods, soared by 122 percent in March after a 52 percent rise in February, bringing the increase for the first quarter to 67 percent, Global Blue said in a report published this week. This compared with a rise of 32 percent in the fourth quarter and 18 percent in 2014.

Many Chinese tourists have stayed away from luxury hot spot Hong Kong – where big brands have invested significantly in new shops in recent years – following pro-democracy protests last year.

Exchange rate movements have led to significant regional price differences, with the same luxury item sometimes costing more than 50 percent less in European capitals than in major Chinese cities.

The trend has encouraged Asian buyers to snap up goods in Europe and resell them at home, a practice often referred to as parallel trading or the gray market and which brands worry could raise issues about their products’ perceived authenticity.

Kering will be expected to give an update on its pricing policy, particularly for its flagship Gucci brand, when it posts first-quarter results on Tuesday.

Global Blue said overall, worldwide global tourism spending reached its highest level in March since May 2011 despite Russian spending falling 39 percent, against a 51 percent drop in January.

Watches and jewelry performed best, with sales up 67 percent in March against 32 percent the previous month, it said. Leather goods sales rose 50 percent, versus 24 percent in February.

Shopping at an Hermes store in Shanghai