Fashionistas in Shanghai love fancy labels. Gucci. Chanel. Burberry. You can’t miss people on the streets sporting their designer logo bags and clothing.
Yet there is a new kind of luxury shopper developing in cities like Shanghai and Beijing that is discerning and demanding.
Could Chinese customers going into stores like Burberry in Shin Kong Place Mall be more interested in the latest styles and not just the logos?
“The first thing most consumers always say is, ‘Show me the latest style,’ rather than ‘Which model is on sale?’ like before,” a saleswoman at the Burberry store near Beijing’s East Fourth Ring Road said. “They like to listen to our brief introduction on the clothes’ design inspiration, rather than randomly pick out one style just because the logo can make them look rich.”
Luxury brand shopper Myra Liu, a 26-year-old magazine editor in Beijing, explained that she wants bags or clothes that fit “her status, temperament and character.”
“I will not blindly buy a bag with a big logo. I’d like to choose a brand of a certain taste that I appreciate,” she added. In the past it’s common to see see young Chinese women carrying Louis Vuitton bags designed for middle-aged women, according to Liu.
“Chinese consumers’ tastes have improved, and become more rational, and they purchase brands catering to their own style,” said Yan Jun, president of Ecole Fashion and Luxury Consulting in Beijing.
This new kind of luxury consumer prefers luxury that is unique, personal, intimate, and special.
In Shanghai, away from the bustling brand heavy Nanjing Lu and absent from many of its mega malls is a place where luxury isn’t all about logos.
The Villa Shanghai in the French Concession carries boutique brands like Herve Leger, Derek Lam, Proenza Schouler, Rebecca Minkoff and Robert Rodriguez.
Owner Sara Villareal knows that the in-store experience — impressive retail spaces and well-trained staff — is crucial to the new Chinese luxury consumer.
“Originally, our target customer was a younger, modern Chinese woman in her 20s with significant disposable income,” says Villareal. “But actually, 90 percent of our revenue comes from wealthy, sophisticated Chinese women in their 30s and 40s.” Her customers are looking for quality products, not necessarily brand and price, and superb shopping experience.
At the Villa, shoppers are greeted and offered a beverage. The sales staff is attentive but not invasive which is rare for Chinese shops. The store is spacious and comfortable for perusing a designer’s look book or considering an outfit.
Villareal also uses the shopping experience to educate. English and Chinese placards with descriptions of the designers and images of celebrities in the designers’ clothes are found throughout the store to help customers better appreciate the origin, inspiration, and styling of the clothing.
“I try to choose designers with a good story, something my customers can associate them with,” she says.
For some labels that are difficult to pronounce, she may give Chinese names. “If they can’t say the name,” she says, “how can they remember it?”
This unique blend of localization with international appeal is a key formula to attract this new luxury consumer.