Rich Asians are crazy to live in Shanghai, luxury index shows

SINGAPORE • If you’re a high-net-worth individual (HNWI) in Asia into fine dining, wine, jewellery and luxury skin cream, best not to live in Shanghai.

The Chinese city overtook Hong Kong as the most expensive for a basket of luxury goods and services on a price-weighted basis, according to Bank Julius Baer & Co’s annual Wealth Report Asia, which tracks spending by the region’s rich.

Shanghai has also grown more pricey on a relative basis to buy property (although Hong Kong is still most expensive in that regard), hire a lawyer or purchase watches and handbags, the report found.

Kuala Lumpur retained its claim as the least-expensive city in Asia — Malaysia’s capital is the best place to pick up a piano, indulge in cigars or book a hotel suite.

The report, in its eighth year, also introduced a new His & Hers Index to compare the cost of luxury goods for men and women in an attempt to answer the question: Is there a pink tax? Or, does it cost more for a woman to look good versus a man?

It will perhaps come as no surprise to anyone that women’s items cost more on average, with Seoul being the most-expensive city for both male and female luxury goods. This is largely owing to an excise tax of up to 20% on certain imports.

On average, it costs US$2,158 (RM8,956) more to purchase Julius Baer’s Hers Index relative to the His Index, although the differential is lower — by US$126 — when a wrist accessory is excluded. The Hers Index is skewed higher due to the Cartier Love Bracelet, a diamond-paved and white gold adornment that costs around US$48,143 in Shanghai (or US$41,818 in Kuala Lumpur).

At the other end of the spectrum, Jakarta is the cheapest overall for men’s luxury items, while Mumbai is where you want to be shopping if you’re a lady.

In Hong Kong, Julius Baer’s basket of goods and services rose by 2.2% in 2018. The former British colony remains the most-expensive city in Asia to buy residential property or take a business-class flight. However, despite its reputation as being pricey, items such as skin cream, ladies shoes and men’s suits are actually relatively inexpensive.

Julius Baer defines HNWIs as people with a net investable wealth of US$1 million or more, excluding property that is their main residence. Data for the survey was collected during the period from June 2017 to July this year. Bloomberg