A team from RBC Capital Markets recently returned from a fact-finding tour of Hong Kong and mainland China to get an insight into how the luxury market is being affected by issues like the pro-democracy protests and trade wars with the United States.
Within a densely packed report, a startling figure jumped out. More than half of all Swatch Group’s global sales, 53%, come from Chinese customers buying watches at home and overseas.
Swatch Group’s financial report for 2018 states that sales from Greater China reached CHF 3.1 billion and the total for the whole of Asia was CHF 5.2 billion from a global turnover of CHF 8.5 billion, 61% of sales.
It has been widely reported that Swatch Group has invested early and successfully in the key Asian markets, but it is startling to see just how far the centre of gravity for the company has shifted East.
Europeans account for just 14% of global sales and North Americans a mere 9%, according to RBC Capital Markets.
This compares to LVMH, which sells 32% of its goods to the Chinese and Richemont where the population accounts for 40% of turnover.
Protests in Hong Kong have hit all luxury groups, although declines in sales of over 30% in the territory have been offset by growth in other markets including China and Japan, according to RBC.
“With escalating political turmoil since the second half of June, total HK visitor arrivals collapsed in August by 39%,” RBC reports. “Mainland Chinese visitors have accounted for around 80%
of total arrivals into Hong Kong YTD,” it adds.