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Singapore retains title as most expensive city for luxury spending: Julius Baer report

Jovi Ho
Jovi Ho • 6 min read
Singapore retains title as most expensive city for luxury spending: Julius Baer report
Just two years ago, Singapore placed fifth behind cities like London and Taipei in the 2022 version of the annual report, which is now in its fifth year. Photo: Bloomberg
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Singapore and Hong Kong are the most expensive cities for luxury goods like cars, fashion and residential properties; while Shanghai slipped two places to place fourth in this year’s edition of the Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report by Julius Baer, released June 25. 

Singapore again took the top spot in the annual ranking, and is also the most expensive place in the world to own a car. Julius Baer says the city continues to attract the ultra-wealthy by maintaining its reputation for political and economic stability alongside a “pro-business environment”. 

Just two years ago, Singapore placed fifth behind cities like London and Taipei in the 2022 version of the annual report, which is now in its fifth year. 

The city ranking is based on the Julius Baer Lifestyle Index, which analyses the cost of a basket of goods and services representative of “living well” in 25 cities around the world. 

The price of luxury goods in Singapore remained flat on average y-o-y, falling 0.46% in local currency terms but up 0.8% in US dollar terms. Singapore’s inflation levels held steady at 4.8% across 2023.

This year, many of the biggest jumps up and down the index were a result of currency fluctuations, says Julius Baer. “Index prices are converted to US dollars to allow for global comparison, and the strength of currencies such as the Swiss franc and, conversely, the poor performance of currencies such as the Japanese yen are clearly seen in the performance of these cities in US dollar terms.”

See also: From 2022: Europe's old money grew faster than China, Japan

Runner-up Hong Kong moved up one spot to replace Shanghai in this year’s ranking, as the second-most expensive city for property prices. Hong Kong is also the most expensive place to engage a lawyer.

Shanghai, now ranked fourth, saw challenges in the real estate market last year, which Julius Baer believes softened consumer confidence. Nonetheless, it is the most expensive city to enjoy a degustation dinner.

See also: Singapore’s USD millionaires to grow by over 10% in the next five years: UBS

Other cities in this year’s ranking include London (#3), Monaco (#5), Zurich (#6), New York (#7), Paris (#8), São Paulo (#9) and Milan (#10). 

Taipei, which placed eighth last year, has dropped out of the top 10. Bangkok and Jakarta also fell from 11th to 17th and 12th to 14th respectively. 

Tokyo, which placed eighth in 2022, dropped out of the top 10 to place 15th last year. Japan, in 23rd place this year, saw swings only when prices were converted to US dollars. “The US dollar is strong overall, and some of this will be down to global instability because it is a safe-haven currency. Globetrotters looking for a luxury bargain might consider Tokyo,” says Julius Baer.

Price changes

In 2024, price rises have slowed to 4% on average in US dollar terms, compared to 6% in 2023. Prices this year grew faster for goods than services, with goods up 5% on average and services up 4%, both in US dollar terms. Although cities continue to become more expensive, there has been a normalisation of inflation rates over the past 12 months, says Julius Baer. 

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Despite a price increase of goods and services, high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) are still willing to spend, and even spend more, notably on hospitality (hotels and high-end meals) and fashion and accessories. 

The greatest price increases this year are for premium consumer items, such as fashion and jewellery, which notched the highest increase at 9.6% y-o-y, where pricing has been rising steeply for several years. 

The only significant drop this year on a global level in US dollar terms came in the bicycle category, which fell 6.4%, with small drops for whisky, down 1.0%, and business class flights, down 1.7%.

Christian Gattiker, head of research at Julius Baer, says this year’s report shows that currencies “matter a lot”. “Take Tokyo as an example. This used to be the poster child of an ultra-expensive city in the 1990s. However, the steady decline of the yen has shown how this can change. As trivial as it seems, we tend to forget that the costs of living look completely different in the eyes of a stranger, especially if that person thinks in US dollars or Swiss francs instead of the local currency. Currency and context matter.” 

APAC Lifestyle Survey

Now in its third year, the accompanying Julius Baer Lifestyle Survey polls wealthy individuals around the world to better understand their priorities, finances and consumption patterns. 

According to Julius Baer, HNWIs want to indulge themselves in a way that recalls the post-war rebounds of the 20th century. HNWIs in APAC and the Middle East led the growth and will continue to do so in the future, adds the private bank. 

Spending in APAC this past year was focused on hospitality and healthcare, highlighting how this lifestyle boom is not restricted to simply purchasing experiences and goods. In APAC, an “extraordinary” 74% said they had spent more on five-star hotels, while 71% said they had spent more on fine dining, according to Julius Baer. 

In terms of health, APAC was either first or second in terms of increase in every health sub-category, and HNWIs in the region said their discretionary health expenses had risen over the past year. 

“This is likely to be down to healthcare and wellness being seen as a ‘new luxury’ to a greater degree in APAC, with 63% saying they are concerned about their health and wellbeing, the highest level of all regions in the survey,” says Julius Baer. 

APAC residents also paid more for jewellery and private school compared to last year (both up 10%), although it costs less to buy a top-tier bicycle, down 13%, or rent a hotel suite, down 11%. 

The most extreme price fall in APAC was the 14% drop in the cost of business class flights. “However, this appears to be a correction to the sky-high fares in 2022 and early 2023. On average, prices in APAC increased 1%,” says Julius Baer.

HNWIs from APAC have also taken on riskier investments. Some 70% of HNWIs reported increased assets in the past 12 months, and they are once again looking to build on their recent increases, with levels of investment up across the board, and highest in APAC and the Middle East. 

Mark Matthews, head of research APAC at Julius Baer, says Asia is making “significant strides” in its development journey. “The technological advancements of China and India, along with the robust economies of Southeast Asia, contribute to the region’s resilience and growth. Singapore, located in this dynamic environment, is leading the digital transformation. Its digital economy is expanding at a CAGR of 13%, reinforcing its role as a key innovation hub in Asia.”

Infographics: Julius Baer

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