Who buys a 10.000€ handbag?

Every now and then I walk around in downtown Milan for some serious window shopping. It’s fun because the things on display are often outrageous both in design and price. It’s also entertaining to look at the people who are genuinely interested in luxury and high fashion – and actually able to buy it. You also get a reminder of how important the luxury and fashion business is for Italy.

In 2014 the Italian fashion industry alone generated 61.2 billion euros in revenues and despite rumours of hiccups the industry is growing. The latest forecast indicates a 5% growth for this year. That’s good news for a country, which is still struggling with economic growth and unemployment.

Whether or not the luxury and fashion industry can continue to grow remains to be seen. A lot depends on how demand develops in Asia-Pacific and China in particular. Prada reported in Q3 that almost 40% of its sales comes from the Asia-Pacific region and it’s clear that any fluctuations there will have a big impact on the industry.

The Chinese are also the biggest spenders among the foreign tourists in Milan. They might not be the largest group of foreign tourists (which is Americans with 13%), but they are the ones who leave most euros on the table. This also means that the person who walks out of the flagship store with a shiny new five-figure handbag is probably from China.