With the Chinese New Year just around the corner, the wealthiest and savviest of Chinese luxury buyers are using their vacation week to create shopping sprees in Europe, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. For the shoppers that no longer see money as an object, the quality of service and the VIP perks that have been honed by the best brands are becoming the main incentive to make purchases.
Zhou Ting, executive director at the luxury goods and services research center at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, explains the phenomenon this way: “Chinese customers like to receive gifts and text messages from luxury boutiques. It is not about the gift, but about how important and special you are, even to luxury companies that are already serving the most elite.” While it may be the little things that count, very big things are brewing for Chinese shoppers.
Brands like Louis Vuitton pull out all the stakes for their Chinese customers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the French fashion house recently took 10 of its best Chinese clients to Mongolia. The VIPs enjoyed a helicopter tour, which made frequent stops to take in the very best luxury resorts and camel-polo tournaments. The company states that it has ambitions to provide loyal customers with experiences “they wouldn’t necessarily think of.”
While the prohibitive pricing of many brands in China can hardly be called a deterrent to the world’s wealthiest, many enjoy traveling abroad for their shopping experiences. Cost aside, analysts say Chinese consumers are attracted to the idea of an exotic shopping spree. CLSA, a Hong Kong-based brokerage, also posits that there is a wider selection of products in the luxury item’s country of origin. “Chinese consumers have gone global and they expect brands to recognize their preferences and treat them appropriately,” says Sage Brennan, co-founder of China Luxury Network, “Reaching the Chinese consumer is not just about launching retail locations in China.”
Some brands have adopted this idea. In addition to its exotic getaways, Louis Vuitton is offering clients exclusive privileges closer to home that speak to the exclusivity the Chinese crave. In July, it opened an invitation-only four-story outlet in Shanghai. When VIPs weren’t relaxing in its private apartment, they were taken to the parlor to design their own bags and shoes.
Chinese consumers report that they like to associate themselves with specific brands. CLSA finds that approximately 24 percent of its respondents earn around 41,976 yuan ($6,746; 4,970 euros) per year but would be willing to spend more than 50,000 yuan on a watch. No wonder brands are tripping over each other to win customer loyalty!