HONG KONG–Next year may be the year that spending comes back in a big way to China luxury consumers, brokerage CLSA said Thursday.
“In fact, the consumer has been amazing,” Francis Cheung, CLSA’s head of China and Hong Kong strategy said. “As investment continues to slow and the economy slows, retail sales have been stable. Retail has accelerated recently with [Singles’ Day]. Because of that, the economy is actually a lot more stable than I would expect at this time of year. I think this is a big theme that will play out.”
He cited a return to growth in the casino hub Macau and a rebound for luxury goods players like LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermes.
“There’s a few reasons but number one is the global prices of luxury products have actually normalized so Hong Kong isn’t as expensive as the rest of the world. Luxury prices have fallen about 10 percent,” he said. Although it’s still more expensive [to buy in China] than Europe, the gap is not so large that shoppers would wait to go abroad to buy, Cheung said.
In October, China cut tariffs on some beauty goods in a bid to stimulate more spending within its borders.
Cheung said that anti-corruption cases–a big drag on consumer spending–are slowing with under 30,000 new cases reported in the year to September compared to over 50,000 in 2014. With a transition set to occur among the country’s top leadership next year, he expects the number of cases to decline even futher as Beijing will be interested in keeping the political landscape relatively scandal-free.
While it has been on a 20-month slide, Hong Kong retail has showed signs of recovery with the decline narrowing steadily over the past few months. It fell just 2.9 percent in October.
Cheung also addressed the upcoming Donald Trump presidency. If the President-elect carries out his pledge to slap a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports, China’s GDP growth will narrow to 1.3 percent from the 6.7 percent it reported in the third quarter, echoing other forecasts.
Ultimately, the brokerage believes that Trump would only be likely to impose tariffs on selected goods. Imposing tariffs on low-end China products would hurt U.S. consumers as the country’s minimum wage is eight times higher than in China.
Apparel and footwear goods make up some of the top China export surpluses to the US, CLSA found. The knit or crochet clothing surplus last year totaled $81.5 billion. It came in third place only behind machines, engines, pumps and electronic equipment. The export surplus for other kinds of clothing was $74.8 billion while footwear was $50.9 billion.