The rise of the Chinese consumer

The Chinese are rapidly becoming world-class shoppers:

Luxury-goods firms are thus becoming wildly excited about the possibilities–in China and beyond. Armani plans to open 20-30 new stores on the mainland by 2008. Prada will invest $40m in China in the next two years, and almost double the number of stores there this year to 15. Louis Vuitton will open its first full-range shop on the mainland in Shanghai in September, and will have 13 stores by year end.

As the Chinese travel more, they are broadening not only their minds but also the range of luxury goods they come into contact with. Once abroad, their favourite activity seems to be shopping. During last month’s Golden Week holiday, around 380,000 mainland tourists visited Hong Kong in just ten days, almost 80% up on 2002. (Last year, SARS kept numbers down.) Mainlanders spend more per person in Hong Kong than any other tourists. From this summer they can travel as individuals to 12 of 15 EU countries (but not Britain, Ireland or Denmark).

“The Chinese go to Paris, stay at two- star hotels, eat cheap Chinese food and spend all their time shopping,” says a luxury-firm executive with glee. Christopher Zanardi-Landi, general manager in China for Louis Vuitton, says that the industry is preparing for “a huge wave” of Chinese shoppers. While they have hitherto catered mainly to Japanese tourists, “luxury stores in Paris are starting to employ Mandarin-speaking assistants,” he says.

But for now, Hong Kong remains the favoured destination for mainlanders. That is why so many luxury stores are opening in Hong Kong. In the past three months, Zegna, Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Dior (among others)ve opened in bigger and better-designed spaces. Hong Kong’s property developers are delighted.

Here is the full story. Here is the previous installment of “China Facts.”


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