There’s more to luxury than just owning expensive things. In China, consumers are increasingly seeking a more hands-on luxury experience.
Last February, the Boston Consulting Group reported that experiential luxury, such as art auctions, travel, and gourmet dining, now accounts for 55 percent of all luxury spending across the globe. Yearly sales growth for luxury experiences also rose by 14 percent, whereas luxury goods grew just 11 percent in the same period. The appeal of experiential luxury has also gained considerably since the mainland’s recent crackdown on visible luxury products.
Luxury companies with a large Chinese clientele are responding accordingly, offering exclusive brand education opportunities to their customers. British wine and spirit merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, for instance, is now offering a Bordeaux winemaking experience to its clients from China, in partnership with Viniv, a French winery. For between £6,900 (US$9,376) and £12,500 (US$16,985) a barrel, wine enthusiasts can produce their own vintages step by step, from picking the grapes to bottling the finished product. They can even customize their own bottle label and logo. As of now, 12 wine lovers have already signed up for the experience.
According to Adam Bilbey, sales director of Berry Bros & Rudd, affluent Chinese have a stronger interest in learning about the winemaking process than oenophiles in the West.
“[Demand for these experiences] has been stronger than in the UK; the euro zone has this history of drinking wine,” Bilbey told the South China Morning Post. “The passion and appetite for learning in Hong Kong and mainland China is incredible to see. We have clients who started buying wine a year ago who now have a deep understanding and knowledge of fine wine.”
Bilbey also notes that much of the appeal of the offer is in its exclusivity.
“Half of our clients [come] because they really want to learn more and the other half because they can have their own bottle of wine,” he said. “[Wine consumption] was very much price-led, but we’re seeing more and more that people are willing [to search for] exclusivity and getting their hands on things that are impossible to get a hold of this year … [to say] ‘No one has this wine.'”
Different sectors of the luxury market are providing similar ways for their customers to experience modes of production. Nicolas Bos, chief executive of jewelry maker Van Cleef & Arpels, announced the L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels Hong Kong edition this month, a special offer for two weeks of jewelry-making classes at PMQ in Aberdeen Street held from October 16 to November 1. Space is limited to 12 students per course, and the cost is HK$6,200 to receive expert instruction on design, gemstone identification, stone setting, and other aspects of the process.
“There is a premium now for brands and houses that come with real authenticity, real history, not just about opportunistic marketing strategy but to come and show who they are and be genuine with their customers.”
image credit: simon pielow