European and American luxury jewelers have their eyes set on Asia, especially red hot China.
The Asian luxury watch and jewelry markets have thrived and now account for more than 31 percent of the global market. It is on track to become the fastest-growing market in the world over the next five years with spending expected to jump from $31.9 billion to $106.1 billion according to market research firm Datamonitor.
For luxury jewelers, China’s rise presents an unrivaled opportunity to bring their brands to a rapidly growing, newly affluent population. So they want to quickly capitalize on this.
China’s number one luxury jeweler Cartier opened another flagship store in Hong Kong this past Friday.
The three-story 900 square meters (9,687 square feet) boutique in the Prince’s Building replaces Cartier’s old store, which was located on the ground floor of the building. The new store is opulent with oak, bronze, mirrors, and chandeliers.
The store will preview the new Panther de Cartier collection, which will be crafted in jade, diamonds and jadeite. Cartier’s managing director of Far East operations, Nigel Luk told The Wall Street Journal that this collection is not specifically designed for Chinese customers, but conceded that “jade is in a way more Asian.” He believes foreign brand with too many Asian references wouldn’t appeal to Chinese consumers.
Cartier’s Kiss of the Dragon collection launched eight years ago used Chinese-inspired designs and was received well in Asia. Whether this new Panther collection will be well received by the mainland Chinese is too early to tell. We think design savvy Cartier’s subtle Chinese-inspired elements would only enhance the elegance of each piece.
Demand for iconic products and high-ticket items such as diamond and gold watches are strong according to Luk.
Cartier is doubling its stores across China in the next two to three years, going into third- and fourth-tier cities to “continue brand development and education so that those Chinese shoppers can aspire to the brand, like consumers in Shanghai and Beijing did 15 years ago.”
US jeweler Tiffany & Co. also aims to make a major push into China. “China will rapidly become the place where we will have the greatest number of new stores,” said Tiffany chairman Michael J. Kowalski.
Tiffany plans to open 25-30 new stores in China over the next three years, investing in China’s second- and third-tier cities. Currently, Tiffany has 12 retail stores and boutiques in China with three in Beijing, four in Shanghai and one in Chengdu.
For the second quarter of 2010, Tiffany reported its strongest China growth, up 27 percent from a year ago. Kowalski thinks Asia-Pacific sales could rise by 25 percent for the full year.
Meanwhile, French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels opened four new stores in China this past year, bringing its store total to eight from four.
photo credit: cartier, tiffany