China's Ultra Wealthy Are Dominating the Global Luxury Market

It’s hard to believe now, but the very first Singles Day in 2009 generated only about $7 million for Chinese mega-retailer Alibaba. No one could have guessed then that, 10 years later, the 24-hour shopping event would see that sales figure surge to an all-time record of $38.4 billion, an unbelievable multiple of 5,471.

But that’s exactly what happened this past Monday when millions of eager Chinese shoppers flooded Alibaba-operated and to take advantage of Singles Day discounts on consumer and luxury goods. In the first hour of shopping, as much as $12 billion in merchandise was purchased.

The company’s one-day haul is staggering. To put it in perspective, $38 billion is approximately the same size as the economy of the island-nation of Bahrain. It’s about double the size of resource-rich Botswana.

Combined with Alibaba’s rival, total Singles Day revenue topped $60 billion, or the gross domestic product (GDP) of Costa Rica.

You can look at these numbers any number of ways. What they tell me above all else is that the Chinese consumer is alive and well, and reports of China’s economic slowdown have been greatly exaggerated.

Young and Rich: Favorable Demographics Point to Strong Growth in China’s Luxury Market

The trend of greater and greater Singles Day spending also means that household disposable incomes in the world’s second largest economy are rising as well. This is good news for manufacturers and retailers of luxury goods, from handbags and sunglasses to suits, watches, jewelry, cosmetics and more.

It’s also good for global investors.

There’s ample evidence to show that this income growth has momentum and is sustainable, despite recent setbacks such as the U.S.-China trade war.

For one, China is now home to more wealthy people than the U.S. is. That’s according to Credit Suisse’s 2019 report on global wealth, released last month, which finds not only that the Asian country has 4.4 million millionaires, but it also has 100 million members of the world’s top 10 percent of earners, overtaking America’s 99 million members for the first time.