Chinese consumers are helping to boost the Swiss watch industry, with exports worth 19.3 billion Swiss francs (US$21.1 billion) last year, an industry report shows.
Hong Kong, the No. 1 market for Swiss watches, contributed 410 million Swiss francs to its global sales, followed by the United States with 190 million Swiss francs and the Chinese mainland with 160 million Swiss francs, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said.
Watches priced above 3,000 Swiss francs saw a 22 percent rise in exports even though the Swiss franc soared to a record high against the euro in August before the Swiss government moved to contain its over-heated appreciation.
Switzerland’s watch exports are expected to continue double-digit growth this year, with Chinese consumers the main driving force, the federation said.
Watches have become one of the most popular luxury purchases for China’s wealthy. Consulting firm Bain &Co estimated in December/2011 that watch sales in China may have soared 40 percent last year, the highest growth rate across all luxury product categories due to aggressive brand marketing.
The top 5 brands accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total 22.5 billion yuan (US$3.5 billion) in sales in 2010.
But of the total 212 billion yuan in luxury purchases by Chinese consumers in 2011, up to 60 percent were made overseas, Bain &Co said.
They expected this trend to continue in 20122, as it found that more than half of China’s luxury spending abroad was motivated by lower prices or better product selection. Increasing travel opportunities and the yuan’s buying power may further encourage consumers to shop outside the Chinese mainland.
Customers from the Chinese mainland spent up to US$7.2 billion on luxury goods abroad during this year’s weeklong Lunar New Year holiday with Europe their top destination, the World Luxury Association said earlier this week.
Domestic demand for luxury products is being held in check because of import tariffs and consumption taxes, which can make luxury goods 72 percent more expensive on the Chinese mainland than in France, the association said