Luxury Retailers Look To Asia In Recession

Luxury Items Luis Vuitton Bag
Luxury Items Luis Vuitton Bag

This has been a brutal holiday season for retailers. Sales of luxury items were especially hard hit; off 34 percent this year, so to boost their bottom-line, high-end retailers are counting on Asia's wealthy to keep spending, CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton, reports from Beijing.

For the worlds luxury brands the show must go on. Even in the midst of a global recession.
The economic downturn that has hit China hard did nothing to dim the sparkle at Versace's first Chinese runway show.

"I'm very, very excited," says Donatella Versace, creative director of Versace Group.

Donatella's optimistic, but it's been a rough year for her target shoppers.

"The last few years of high demand for luxury goods might be related to the dual bubbles: one is the stock market bubble one is a housing market bubble," says Ming Huang, professor of finance at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. "Now both bubbles have burst in China alongside the global market."

The recession's emptied many of China's biggest bank accounts, Hatton reports. Zhang Jindong made billions from home appliance chain, Suning, but now 62 percent of his fortune's gone. Zhang Yin became the world's richest self-made woman by dealing in recycled paper, and she's lost 83 percent of her wealth.

All this is bad news for the world's high-end retailers. China was a major part of their expansion plans before the financial meltdown. But now, it's looking unlikely shoppers from Beijing to Shanghai will carry luxury labels through a global recession.

This trendy second-hand store has seen a 30% increase in clients reselling used luxury items.

"Customers feel it's probably better to keep cash handy than to hold on to a pricey bag," explains Momo Chen a store manager at Milan Station.

Luxury labels haven't given up though: This exhibition ignored recession doom and gloom by peddling diamond-encrusted pots and custom cars.

"You can't lower the quality of your life just because of a financial downturn," reasons one woman at a recent consumer show in Beijing.

Not everyone would agree, Hatton reports. Many here still aspire to luxury and glamour, but now even China's elite are expected to take a rest from serious spending.