Hoping to cash in on its online clout, Sina, best known for it’s popular Twitter-like Weibo microblog, has jumped into an increasingly crowded luxury e-commerce space with the launch of Sina Shepin last Friday.
The new online store lets designers sell their collections directly to customers. It offers different categories such as handbags, apparel, watch and jewelry, covering over 50 brands. Big international brands such as LV, Balenciaga, Gucci, Dior, Burberry, and Paul Smith have already signed on.
The site declares all products “100 percent guaranteed genuine” – perhaps a reference to counterfeit issues at some other e-commerce sites, like Taobao and Tencent’s Paipai.com.
China’s luxury clothing and accessories market has huge potential. An estimated 175 million Chinese can afford luxury goods and of those, about 10 to 13 million often buy genuine designer goods. And these figures are growing rapidly.
But competition is getting heavy in the luxury e-tail sector, which includes start-ups like IHaveYou.com, e-commerce giants like Netease and Taobao’s TMalls, and well-funded and experienced international retailers like Yoox who run online stores for brands like Emporio Armani.
Yoox recently launched thecorner.com.cn, its own e-commerce site. Netease launched its luxury shopping platform, Netease Shangpin, in July 2010, while Tencent invested in B2C jewelry site Kela in July 2011.
Taobao also launched a “designer-to-consumer” (D2C) site last Thursday for limited-edition or custom-made designer clothes — a sign that Taobao may take its TMall more upmarket.
While there are a flurry of activities, China’s e-commerce market may not live up to its buzz just yet.
According to new research from Huicong D&B, online luxury purchases are generally for smaller items even though about 67 percent of regular Chinese luxury shoppers said they primarily use the Internet for online shopping. Of course as confidence in product authenticity and ease of shopping increase, we should see a greater share of larger luxury purchases going online.