Yuan spenders eclipse Russians, Arabs in London

Tue Sep 1, 2009 1:33am EDT
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By Paul Adrian Raymond

LONDON (Reuters) - Gloom-defying shoppers from China are flocking to the luxury stores of London's West End, outspending Arab royalty, replacing Russia's departing super-rich and lifting spirits after nine months of recession.

Data from tax rebate companies suggests Chinese tourists are spending three to four times more than a year ago in London's chic shopping districts.

On Bond Street, famous for its designer boutiques and jewelers such as De Beers and Graff, figures from firms which arrange sales tax refunds for tourists suggest Chinese shoppers are now overtaking big spenders from the Gulf states, Russia, the United States and wealthy Nigerians.

"We are looking for good-quality branded stuff," said Lillian Wang, a 28-year-old bank worker from Beijing on Oxford Street, one of London's mainstream thoroughfares. "I'm not as crazy as others, buying a dozen Louis Vuittons (bags), but I'm sure they are a lot cheaper here than in Beijing.

"A cheaper pound has also helped."

Thanks to a $585 billion stimulus package and record lending by the country's state-owned banks, China is likely to hit the government's target of 8 percent growth this year, by far the fastest rate of any major economy.

This has offset a slump in export demand and sustained the rise in incomes that made Chinese shoppers, especially the well-heeled, a rich seam of profit for Europe's luxury brands.

"Income growth -- particularly the top end, also driven by wealth accumulation -- remains robust in China," said Linda Yueh, a fellow in economics at Oxford University.   Continued...

<p>Shopping bags rest on the handles of a buggy in the exclusive New Bond Street, renowned for its jewelry and designer retailers, in London, August 24, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>