Dunhill, Burberry & Saint Laurent are closing stores in China: The Chinese dream is over for luxury brands.

Dunhill advertisementChina has recorded the most number of closures of luxury stores between July 2016 and July 2017, the latest report by the investment research and management company Bernstein shows. The report, titled “Store Wars,” based its findings on Bernstein’s tracking of about 7,000 stores referring to 36 luxury brands including big names such as Burberry, Saint Laurent, and Céline. Burberry and Dunhill had the most store closures in China of all the brands during that period.
China has seen 62 net closures of luxury brand stores during the surveyed period, the largest number observed by Bernstein among all significant geographies. The firm viewed the trend as a revision of the over-expansion, in previous years, of luxury brands into the Chinese market.

The rapid development of the country’s luxury industry fueled by affluent Chinese consumers has given luxury brands unrealistic projections of retail sales in the past. This over-estimation, according to Bernstein, has led them to aggressively open retail stores in China that exceeds consumers’ real purchasing power. The same situation occurs in the Middle East region, another area where luxury consumption is rising fast.
Globally, the number of the net store openings by luxury brands has also for the first time run into the negative territory. The report said most brands have more or less closed some of their stores in the department stores, a traditional channel that accounts for about one-third of these brands’ global sales.

Chinese consumers have demonstrated some remarkedly different purchasing behaviours from that of the West. According to Pierre Gervois, a leading expert about wealthy Chinese travelers’ shopping behavior, and founder of the prestigious STC magazine “Western luxury brands have been warned since 2010 that their projections about affluent Chinese consumers were grossly exaggerated.” “Brands refused to acknowledge that their future Chinese customers would buy in overseas stores  rather than in domestic stores, both for tax reasons but also because of the poor customer service in their Chinese stores”, Gervois added.

Another distinguishing habit that sets Chinese luxury consumers apart from Westerners is their huge interest in buying luxury items online. Over the past year, an increasing number of luxury brands have embraced the e-commerce marketplace and launched stores with the country’s top two players, Alibaba and JD. Moreover, big names like Louis Vuitton and Gucci even opened their own Chinese e-commerce stores to ensure their offerings meet the expectations of Chinese consumers. And then there’s the nature of luxury itself, the meaning of which is different to younger consumers from what it was to their forebears.

Another concern that Western brands cannot officially recognize in China, is that a growing part of affluent millennials Chinese are moving from government-censored social media (WeChat, Weibo…) to Facebook and Twitter throughout an increasing use of VPN’s. That makes much less relevant their communications campaigns on Chinese networks.

Source:  Chinese Tourists in America Blog / JingDaily Blog / Jenny Zhang / Ryan Yu

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U.S. Luxury Retailers now targeting smartly very affluent Chinese travelers

Bloomingdales - Shanghai Travelers - Club campaignWe have all seen these cheezy advertising campaigns made by department stores or western brands trying to attract Chinese tourists in the last years: Be assured that affluent Chinese tourists were also smiling…  But it is going to change. Exit the low quality shopping publications targeted to Chinese tourists that ended in the hotel rooms trash bins. U.S. and European Luxury brands and high end retailers start now to advertise seriously with affluent Chinese tourists.

Although luxury sales in mainland China have still remained in slowdown mode in 2015, and Hong Kong has recorded a significant slump as well, Chinese spending remains a potent force in the global luxury industry, propping up growth rates in developed markets worldwide.
This week, Hermès reported a 22 percent increase in global sales in the second quarter, with sales in Japan leaping 33 percent—a figure attributed in large part to an influx of big-spending Chinese tourists attracted by a weaker yen and easier travel. On a global scale, Chinese travelers are spending lavishly: a recent Global Blue report found that Chinese tourist spending jumped 87.8 percent in June, while spending on leather goods in Europe grew by an even more staggering 93.7 percent. Year-to-date spending growth sits at a whopping 110 percent.
These numbers contrast sharply with the situation in mainland China and Hong Kong, one that is particularly striking in formerly triumphant Hong Kong. Last week, Burberry reported a “double-digit percentage decline” there for the three months ending in June, while sales of Swiss watches in the former British colony were down 21.2 percent in June, despite 3.3 percent growth worldwide.

GERVOIS magazine Advertising and sponsored content opportunitiesThese numbers further support the trend that growth is following Chinese tourists abroad, and brands need to keep up with their changing location preferences for travel—engaging outbound shoppers before they leave China and when they arrive overseas. Recent stats also illustrate the ever-shifting tides of Chinese travel patterns. Whereas Japan was, just a few years ago, faced with a Chinese tourist slump (caused in no small part by Sino-Japanese political tensions), the country is seeing a wave of Chinese arrivals and spending, owing to cooling attitudes toward Hong Kong and South Korea’s currency fluctuations and MERS outbreak.
Amid these rapid and unpredictable changes, what is clear is that brands need to have plans in place to quickly jump on opportunities, and ensure they’re able to reach and influence the Chinese outbound consumer wherever he or she happens to be in the world.
“Luxury retailers like Bloomingdale’s have well understood the importance of targeting affluent Chinese tourists”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus and Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a high end publication in Chinese language for High Net Worth Chinese global travelers. “Bloomindale’s and the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine have launched a very creative marketing and PR campaign this spring showing actual Chinese customers and what it feels like to shop at the iconic Bloomingdale’s store in NYC.” Gervois added. This campaign has generated a considerable attention on Chinese social media and is the first ever campaign focused on the Chinese customer and the overall shopping experience in a U.S. luxury retailer. An example to follow for the industry.

Source: Jing Daily / China Elite Focus / The New Chinese Tourist

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Mandarin speaking sales associates are not enough to attract Chinese affluent shoppers: A good digital strategy is more efficient.

Chinese shoppers- China Elite FocusOver two-thirds of luxury spending by mainland Chinese was made overseas in 2013, an increase from 2012, according to the China Luxury Market Study from consultancy firm Bain & Company released on Monday.
Chinese shoppers often wait for trips abroad, plan shopping sprees to Hong Kong or get friends or specialist “daigou” agencies to bring back luxury items from overseas because they are often cheaper due to China’s high import taxes.
“Sometimes I’ll go to a China store and look online for details about things I’ve liked, or try something on for size I’ve seen online. But when it comes to actually buying it I’ll always get a friend to bring it back from abroad,” said Fang.
China is the number one luxury spender worldwide, making up 29 percent of total global luxury spend this year, according to the Bain report. So Chinese consumers – wherever they may be – are a key battleground for firms from LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA and Gucci owner Kering Holland NV to trench coat maker Burberry Group PLC , cosmetics giant L’Oreal SA and Cartier watchmaker Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA .
Chinese luxury spending slowed at home in the wake of a crackdown on corruption and shows of wealth, prompting warnings of a sales slowdown from liquor maker Pernod Ricard SA and Volkswagen-owned Bentley Motors and Lamborghini.
Luxury brand store openings dropped significantly in 2013, according to Bain, which estimated China’s luxury market will grow two percent this year versus seven percent a year earlier.

On London’s Bond Street and Fifth Avenue in New York, luxury stores have been getting ready to welcome Chinese shoppers, boosting China know-how ahead of peak seasons such as the week-long Lunar New Year beginning January 31, 2014.
London’s Harrods department store is planning a themed display for the festival, with special products and menus designed for the occasion, it said.
Chinese visitors spent 300 million pounds ($488.34 million) in Britain in 2012, while the British government has relaxed visa rules to attract more people from the world’s second-largest economy.
“Having a strategy for Chinese visitors makes a massive difference. Chinese spending in the UK was up 132 percent in the first half of 2013,” said Jeremy Gordon, London-based director of China Business Services, which helps UK firms target Chinese shoppers.
“That’s obviously going to have a massive impact on your bottom line at a time when overall retail sales are not growing at anything like that rate.”
On Fifth Avenue, jeweler Tiffany & Co said it employs Mandarin-speaking staff. Tiffany has seen strong growth in the China market as the allure of diamonds grows, and said last month that sales at its flagship New York store were driven by Chinese and European tourists.
Around 1.5 million Chinese travelers visited the United States in 2012, a more than five-fold increase from 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Western luxury brands have now fully understood the necessity to have Mandarin speaking sales associates in their New York and London stores, but it’s not enough. The purchase decision is made well before the trip, when future Chinese travelers are checking their luxury travel magazines on their iPad and luxury lifestyle Weibo pages. The irony of this is even if the sales associates do not speak Mandarin, Chinese shoppers will still buy”  said Pierre Gervois, author of “How U.S. Retail, Travel and Hospitality Industries can attract affluent Chinese tourists”
Saks Fifth Avenue, the department store unit of Hudson’s Bay Co , has a Lunar New Year strategy to focus on beauty products, while the flagship store of Macy’s Inc has a visitor centre with Chinese-language material.
Barneys, meanwhile, is launching its first Lunar New Year-themed marketing campaign in 2014. The department store has increased adverts in Chinese magazines and is testing campaigns around Chinese payment system Union Pay, it said.

Luxury firms are also going online to woo Chinese shoppers. Tiffany has a Chinese engagement ring app while Chanel offers an online make-up “classroom”. Italian fashion house Fendi has held talks on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, while Prada SpA and Christian Dior SA have Chinese videos online.
Luxury travel clubs for wealthy Chinese travelers have also their iPad App: The Shanghai Travelers’ Club has its own App, entirely in Chinese Mandarin, and features articles about US$50M private jets, gold plated hand made laptops, or entire private islands for rent for discerning (and rich) Chinese tourists.
Luxury leather goods firm Coach Inc has a U.S.-focused campaign in Mandarin using popular Chinese social media app WeChat. The app, developed by Tencent Holdings Ltd , has 272 million users worldwide.
Coach tailors some of its U.S. products for Chinese shoppers, a spokeswoman said. Chinese are the fast-growing segment of the firm’s North American tourist sales, which make up a fifth of total sales in the region.
“This trend is going to continue because the Chinese are a lot more integrated in the global economy and really informed, especially about price,” said Bruno Lannes, Shanghai-based partner with Bain and lead author of the luxury market report.
“At the end of the day it comes to the same thing: shoppers will either travel or go online to buy abroad.”

Burberry plans to expand London stores, mostly for the Chinese customers

Burberry said it would pump £20m into stores in London this year as the capital cements its reputation as a shopping magnet for high-spending Chinese tourists.

The luxury label’s chief executive, Angela Ahrendts, said trading in London had been one of the highlights of a “record” year for the British trenchcoat-maker, with profits up nearly 40% at £298m. It plans to double its selling space in London, a move which will involve the expansion of its store near Harrods in upmarket Knightsbridge, as well as a move to a larger shop on Regent Street which Ahrendts said was now in the same league as the “Champs Elysées or Fifth Avenue” on the global shopping map. “This is our headquarters,” she said. “We should shine here greater than anywhere in the world.” “We are already the favorite store of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club members, that means a lot to us”.

Sales in the luxury goods industry have bounced back after the two-year hiatus caused by the financial crisis. Sales at Burberry were up 27% to £1.5bn as wealthy shoppers regained their appetite for designer clothes and expensive handbags such as the £2,500 python-skin tote in its current collection. Demand for its catwalk brand Prorsum had “come back”, she said, while sales of accessories were up 35%.

Under the leadership of Ahrendts, a glamorous American who joined from US clothing giant Liz Claiborne five years ago, the brand has shed its reliance on raincoats and its trademark camel, red and black check to become a bona fide luxury brand with advertising campaigns featuring young actresses such as Harry Potter star Emma Watson helping to establish its fashion kudos. Ahrendts has also pulled the 155-year-old brand started by Thomas Burberry into the 21st century by broadcasting its runway shows in 3D live on the internet and launching several spin-off websites, including Art of the Trench.

During the year Asia-Pacific became the brand’s most important sales region, with growth of 53%. Asian tourists, predominantly from China, are also Burberry’s biggest customers in major tourist cities, such as Paris, New York and London – so much so that it now hires Mandarin-speaking shop assistants. Chinese visitors to London last year spent an estimated £200m in luxury shopping areas such as Bond Street and Savile Row, according to retail industry group the New West End Company.

US retail consultancy Bain is predicting a strong year for luxury goods brands, with sales expected to grow 8% to £160bn. Until now Ahrendts has been investing in behind-the-scenes improvements such as Burberry’s IT systems but she said it was time for it to increase its retail presence: “It is time to get our retail footprint up to par with consumers’ perception of the brand.”

The decision will see capital expenditure double to £200m this year, with half that spent on new shops, including 20 in emerging markets such as Brazil, India and Mexico and the rest on refurbishments in cities such as Chicago, Milan, Hong Kong and Paris.

Burberry’s shares have soared in the past year but investors are worried about the impact of the stores push on profits, sending the shares down more than 4% to make it the biggest faller in the FTSE 100. They closed down 60p at £12.60.

Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown, put the fall down to profit-taking, noting the shares had risen 116% in the last year. “Burberry remains a rare and notable example of a retailer enjoying a stellar growth trajectory,” he said, adding the “downside” was spending on new stores would “pinch” profit margins over the coming year.