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Beauty, Footwear Lead Chinese Luxe Spend

A new Ruder Finn/Ipsos study finds watches, handbags and jewelry are less in demand.

High-end cosmetics and shoes are gaining traction among China’s growing legions of luxury consumers, while watches, handbags and jewelry are less in demand.

That was among the findings of the Ruder Finn/Ipsos China Luxury Forecast 2012, which also revealed that Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci were the top three luxury brands among Chinese luxury consumers, based on responses that included unaided “top-of-mind” and “spontaneous-recall” reactions.

Forty-three percent of the 1,135 consumers surveyed indicated that they would increase their spending on luxury cosmetics, the same percentage as responded affirmatively regarding high-end footwear purchases. Next in demand were upper-tier wines, spirits and cigars, checked off by 40 percent of respondents.

More than half of those participating in the survey — 54 percent — indicated they would spend less on luxury watches, with 48 percent cutting purchases of handbags and jewelry.

“Chinese consumers buy luxury products mainly to reward themselves or build confidence, as well as to reflect their taste and personality, and will continue to do so this year,” said Elan Shou, vice president and managing director, China, of Ruder Finn Asia. “We are seeing a change in spending patterns, not a drop in the desire for luxury items.”

The survey was conducted last month [June] and included consumers who earned the equivalent of between $15,600 and $31,300 a year. Sixty-nine percent of respondents were under the age of 35.

About 10 percent of the luxury goods bought were purchased online, a figure that spiked to 17 percent in the cosmetics category. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they use or intend to use social media to learn more about the brands and products in which they’re interested.

The survey found a growing tendency to shop locally as China displaced Hong Kong and Europe as the most important destination for luxury-goods purchases. Monobrand stores were the most popular points of sale for these expenditures.

In the ranking of brands, Hermès placed fourth behind Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci, with the top 10 rounded out by Christian Dior, Armani, Rolex, Cartier, Prada and Versace and its Versus offshoot. Vuitton’s unaided awareness was 39 percent, and its spontaneous-recall ranking 65 percent. Chanel garnered responses of 17 and 50 percent, respectively.

In a disclosure footnote, Ruder Finn said Chanel, Hermès, Armani and Cartier either were, or recently had been, among its clientele.