The question that arises here, of course, is why luxury brands are marking their presence in the city, and why Chennai consumers might be ready to shed their tag of being discreet spenders.
Wealth managers attribute the change to different factors, the most important being the economic boom in Chennai, led by the automobile and ancillary sectors.
Between May 2011 and January 2012 alone, the state received investment proposals worth Rs 59907 crore while growth touched 9.39 per cent in 2011-12.
"The trend to spend more on luxury goods is driven primarily by rapid wealth creation and growth in disposable income, supported by a gradual change in mindset,” feels Atul Singh, managing director and head, wealth management at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
A senior banker, who asked not to be named, estimates that there are at least 1 lakh individuals in Chennai with assets of over Rs 5 crore. Analysts declined to go on record about the number of high net worth individuals in the city but they all agree that their numbers have increased in the last five years. Others attribute the shift to the city’s becoming more cosmopolitan with increasing employment opportunities attracting more people from different parts of the country and the world. A senior sales executive at Jaguar Land Rover says many of his customers are beneficiaries of rising real estate prices in the city’s IT corridor, who are eager to spend their newly-earned wealth."
It's not only about increasing demand, though.
"For high-end brands, it's not just about profitability but also about having a presence in growth markets. They are all positioning themselves for long-term growth," says Rajesh Iyer, head-products and research, Kotak Wealth Management Services.
Muthiah, the long-time chronicler of the city, puts it a little differently.
"Chennai has always been a happy blend where you could wind up at a discotheque one night and the temple the next morning. The change you see is in what the youngsters are spending on, whether it's in malls or on clothes. Spending has progressed from needs to wants."
That should be music to the ears of the many brands beating a path to the city.
Image: Spencer's Plaza as seen in 1910.