Sydney’s Luxury Retail Revolution
By : | July 2, 2018

Spurred by huge spending indulged in by Chinese travelers, students and Chinese-Australian residents, luxury retail in Sydney is seeing a huge renaissance. There is the CBD with its posh luxury brand stores to explore, and splurge in. But we recommend exploring the city’s other vibrant neighborhoods, such as Paddington and Surry Hills, which offer a more eclectic shopping experience and native luxury brands.


Hermes Store

Every morning, outside the expansive Gucci store in Sydney’s buzzing Central Business District, there is a long queue of Asian people—mainly Chinese women—waiting to get in.

Vivian Davis, a fashion stylist and a Sydneysider (or a resident of Sydney) I encounter one morning over breakfast at the QT Sydney Hotel I am staying in, tells me that it is a normal sight, not just outside Gucci, but Hermès, Van Cleef & Arpels, and LV stores that line CBD. “Sydney’s luxury retail boom is fueled by the Chinese. Not just by tourists from China, but also Chinese students and Chinese Australian residents. They are responsible for up to two-thirds of luxury retails sales in Sydney.”

This exponential growth has seen global brands, particularly from luxury conglomerates LVMH and Kering, opening and renovating stores in the city. If LV accounts for 15.4 per cent of market share in Australia, Tiffany stands at 13.2 per cent and Prada at 4.8 per cent. But there are other brands making their presence felt: Balenciaga, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Saint Laurent, for instance.

Walk down CBD on any given day, especially on the weekends, and notice the buzz in the posh stores set up by the brands and you will realise how positively Asian tourists have influenced the luxury economy in Sydney. In 2017, Chinese tourists accounted for about 13 per cent of all tourist arrival in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The country is home to almost 170,000 Chinese students studying in Australian universities and a large number of Chinese-born Australian residents.

Manning Cartell

Davis tells me about how brands also woo wealthy Chinese online influencers to inspire more ‘style’ travelers from the Asian major to travel to Australia. “A wealthy Chinese social media influencer in Sydney is often invited by most luxury super-brands. She puts together exclusive events where she gets her rich girlfriends to attend.”

Research by consultancy firm IBIS World shows that Australian luxury retailers have been relatively insulated from the weaker retail environment. The luxury retailing industry has grown at a rapid pace, with revenue expected to grow at an annualized 10.2 per cent over the five years through to 2017/18, to $2.1 billion, according to IBISWorld senior analyst, Kim Do says. “This is largely driven by inbound tourism. Sales from local buyers have also grown due to growing interest in luxury brands from younger consumers. Changes in marketing techniques by many luxury houses have additionally contributed to revenue growth over the period,” she confirms.

Shopping at CBD

Gucci and Prada at CBD

The Central Business District is a luxury haven, straddling within the posh enclave the colonial splendor of the Queen Victoria building, The eclectic Strand Arcade, and several standalone luxury stores. Within the Queen Victoria Building is a host of stores selling everything you could ever desire—from fashion to jewellery.  On the corners of George, Park and Pitt streets, is The Galeries, which retails a range of fashion, food, books and technology accessories over several floors. The Van Cleef & Arpels store at the end of the Main Street, CBD is a visual delight, its store windows an invitation into the elegant world that is accessible only to the elite.

At the corner of George and King streets—at 388 George Street—stands the Louis Vuitton building, while Chanel and Dior are at King Street. Castlereagh Street is home to some of the glitziest jewelery brands—the iconic Tiffany & Co., the ever-elegant Cartier, Bulgari which offers some amazing statement pieces of jewelry, and Georg Jensen and Canturi, brands that create striking sculptural pieces of jewels. CBD is home to hundreds of brands—Givenchy, Harrolds, Céline, Miu Miu, Chanel and The TDE Apartment, besides a range of high street brands such as Zara and H&M.

However, if you choose to venture outside this uber-luxury sanctuary, there are some other interesting retail destinations that could prove to be interesting.



Little Joe Woman, Paddington

I took time out on my last day to explore The Intersection, Paddington. This is home to Australia’s indigenous and experimental designers. Home to street-open stores and several cafes and restaurants, The Intersection—sitting on the corner of Glenmore Road and Oxford St— offers the best of Australian high street and couture fashion. Brands like globally recognized Zimmermann and Bassike, to local favorites such as Manning Cartell, Alice McCall, Viktoria + Woods, Dion Lee and Scanlan Theodore, you will find the country’s most innovative designers.

At a short walk from The Intersection, along Glenmore Road, is Five Ways, a point where five streets meet at a roundabout. Across the street are stores by Australian designers like Kym Ellery, and Camilla and Marc. The neighborhood also has some interesting bridal boutiques such Steven Khalil and Pallas Couture.


Surry Hills

Store at Surry Hills

The other neighborhood I believe has far more character than CBD is Surry Hills. Again, it is home to home-grown designers. Via Alley has a carefully curated display of designer pieces, set out in a sleek all-white space, spanning jeweler from Australian artist Elke Kramer, T-shirts from cult Japanese label Graniph, Hakusan ceramics and shoes from Karen Walker. An absolute discovery was Title where you can flip through CDs of music from mid-century jazz to current-day funk, and buy vinyl, films and music and art-themed books.

Located on the main street are several interesting barber shops, such as The Barberia by hairdressing duo Matthew and Cheryl Clarke which opened in the early 1990s, and has a grungy urban edge. The Standard Store by Nicolo and Orlando Reindorf is housed in what was once an old coin-operated laundromat. This sun-lit treasure trove has some amazing fashion accessories from Australian favorite labels like Bretagne and Tricker.

Mister Chop Shop on Surry Hills itself is a boutique barber shop where barbers combine old school techniques with the more adventurous modern styling methods, some of which result in hair that seem like sculptural masterpieces. Nestled in Bondi Junction, Mister Chop Shop has sleek leather chairs, exposed brick walls and a grungy, cool-kid aesthetic. They also employ female barbers, a rarity in a world of male grooming. How many men you know will trust a woman with their gorgeous locks or their statement beards?


Deepali Nandwani, former Editor in chief, Mediascope - NewBase Content, has spent 25 years in the world of journalism, and keenly tracks the global luxury industry.