SINGAPORE (July 9): Jeff Meng, a 25-year-old watch lover from a well-heeled Guangdong family, had RMB160,000 ($31,800) burning a hole in his pocket. He could not find the Rolex Daytona watch he wanted, dubbed “panda” for its black-and-white face, anywhere in China.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that’s halted travel and disrupted networks of parallel importers, Chinese high-end shoppers like Meng — who collectively spend US$111 billion ($155 billion) a year on luxury goods, powering over a third of the global industry — are finding it hard to spend their cash.

That’s forcing global luxury houses from Balenciaga to Montblanc to rethink how to reach Chinese consumers on the mainland, despite long-standing concerns that range from counterfeiters to powerful e-commerce platforms that set the rules. The halt to travel is also fuelling the rise of a second-hand luxury market in China as consumers seek certain styles or models they can’t find in local stores.

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