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What Do Wealthy Chinese Women Want?

Wednesday, 17 Oct 2012 | 11:08 AM ET
A jewelry display in a luxury shopping mall in Shanghai
Phillipe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images
A jewelry display in a luxury shopping mall in Shanghai

The stereotype of today's luxury consumer is a Beverly Hills heiress or a New York financier. But the future of luxury may ride on a different demographic: young Chinese women.

According to a new report from Wealth-X, there are more than 2, 700 women in China who are now worth $30 million or more. They have an average net worth of $119 million. And 39 percent of them are under the age of 40.

That's a lot of Birkin bags, Hermes scarves and Jimmy Choos. But the Wealth-X report said that sportscar makers — Ferrari and Maserati — and other more traditionally male marketers might also want to start catering to females. (Read more: Do China's Rich Love Luxury Too Much? )

"This presents significant opportunity for luxury brands that cater to the younger generation, " the report said.

Who are these young Chinese women and what do they want?

A separate report from MSL China says that women account for up to half of all luxury purchases in China. They are young, urban and career-focused.

"They believe in the right to a career and to spend their money as they please, " the report said. "Having grown up in a capitalistic China with modern Western influences, they have been exposed to luxury products that define their way of life."

The report said these Chinese women are pulled between two worlds: their traditional Chinese families (which remain important) and the modern life of independence and self-reward. One value remains constant, however: the desire to marry a wealthy man.

"These women want a husband, " the report said. "But not any husband; they want a rich one."

As for their taste in luxury: Chinese women prefer to buy their luxury products abroad, since purchases in China are seen as inferior and possibly fake. They buy luxury products to obtain status, although they don't want to be seen as "baofahu" or nouveau-riche (even though almost all wealth in China is new).

They prefer classic brands rather than trendy ones. They rely on celebrities and models for guidance on what to buy, and they want to be educated by the luxury companies on their products and brands. (Read more: Texas Postal Worker Is the Artist Behind Hermes Scarves )

To many young Chinese women, luxury is a necessity to define their economic rise — so the labels and brands need to be noticeable.

Said one young Chinese woman, "You need to wear more than one or two luxury brands to present yourself."

That will be good news for luxury marketers who are currently pre-occupied with a slowdown in overall Chinese luxury spending.

-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter:
@robtfrank

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  • A reporter and editor, Robert Frank is a leading authority on the American wealthy for CNBC.