Tag Archives: global economic crisis

Chinese Spending Buoys LVMH

Growth Among Chinese Luxury Customers Pushes Them Beyond Japanese, Americans To Become Top Consumers Of LVMH Brands

Chinese drinkers have made the country Hennessy's top market, surpassing the United States

Chinese drinkers have made the country Hennessy's top market, surpassing the United States

LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A., the mighty global juggernaut, has had a bit of a rough year in the traditionally reliable markets of North America, Japan and Europe. Despite cutbacks in spending in these established markets, however, there have been bright areas for LVMH, namely in emerging markets like China and the other BRIC nations and pockets of Southeast Asia. In regions where LVMH has only operated for a few years, or a few decades at the most, newly rich consumers are opening their wallets and flaunting their wealth in a way never seen before — and all of this translates to high hopes for luxury’s standard bearer.

In the wake of the global economic crisis, China has leapfrogged its developed-world counterparts in many high-end segments, driven mainly by the country’s second-tier urban growth, which — fueled mostly by commodity industries like coal which have not been as badly affected by the downturn — continue to grow and attract foreign investment. Second- and third-tier cities, which have seen high-end foreign boutiques opening up only in the last few years, have been a boon to major foreign brands because customers in these smaller cities present virtually no signs of “luxury fatigue” and feel that expensive luxury brands are an excellent way of conveying their newly found status — the flashier the better.

Earlier this year, China surpassed the United States as the world’s second-largest luxury market, and the country has Japan, #1, firmly in its sights. Many analysts believe that China, given current growth figures, should overtake Japan as the world’s top luxury market within five years. So what does this all mean for luxury brands? Today, the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Curtin looks into LVMH’s “China Syndrome,” and make the case that where LVMH goes, so goes the luxury industry:

Chinese customers, both at home and on holiday in the shopping malls around the world, have become the biggest buyers of Louis Vuitton clothes and handbags and Hennessy cognac ahead of the Japanese and overtaking Americans.

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Future For Luxury Goods Looks A Little Brighter

Growing Demand In China’s Interior, Other Asian Countries Should Counterbalance Tepid Consumption Elsewhere

Although Chinese consumers have shown a taste for foreign luxury brands, domestic labels will present stiff competition in coming years

Although Chinese consumers have shown a taste for foreign luxury brands, domestic labels will present stiff competition in coming years

As a result of the fast-paced development of China’s eastern coastline and special administrative regions, only recently have major luxury brands made it to the country’s vast interior region, where a number of second- and third-tier cities remain relative blank slates. Since so many companies are only reaching these areas now, the spread of luxury brands in China has become a regular news story. This has only intensified over the last year, as formerly free-spending Japanese and American customers have thought twice about luxury goods while emerging customers in places like the BRIC countries and relatively fast-growing economies like Vietnam become more regular (and brand-loyal) buyers. Nonetheless, the luxury sector is still experiencing only modest growth one year on from the onset of the global economic slowdown despite their best efforts at wooing new customers.

If many recent articles are correct, though, what we’ve seen over the last year — severe as it has been — should only prove to be a blip in the grand scheme of luxury revenues. From Financier Worldwide:

Sales of designer shoes, handbags, and beauty products have weathered the financial storm particularly well. At the end of August, French cosmetics company L’Oréal reported higher than expected profits of €1.37bn for H1 2009. In June, Hermès revealed it was farming crocodiles in Australia to feed demand for its coveted £4000 Birkin bag. Around the same time, Mulberry announced that its handbag sales had recovered, climbing 21 percent in the first 10 weeks of the new financial year. Shoe supplier Kurt Geiger, which operates in upmarket department stores across the UK, also reported double-digit growth in profits for the first five months of the year.

Bain & Company predicts that trading in the developed markets will remain tough for the rest of the year, with growth of around 1 percent in 2010 before a slow recovery. However, despite the recession slowing the pace of development in emerging markets, Bain believes that, as a consequence of increasing personal wealth, growth in global GDP, and rising tourism in Russia, China, India and Brazil, spending will surge between 20 percent and 35 percent over the next five years. This is expected to aid the recovery of the luxury goods sector.

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Fashion: From “Made In China” To “Owned By China”

Acquisition Of High-Profile Western Brands By Chinese Companies Gives Chinese Designers And Brands Broader Distribution Base

Pierre Cardin has become one of the most recognizable and coveted foreign brands in China since entering the market in 1978. Photo (c) CRI English

Pierre Cardin was recently acquired by a Chinese fashion company, boosting the popular brand's reach in the China market. Photo (c) CRI English

In the wake of the global economic crisis, several Chinese companies have gone on global shopping sprees, spurred by the one-two punch of a drop in luxury consumption in developed markets and a motivation to control the sale of high-profit luxury goods inside the Chinese mainland. Although China, as the world’s most populous nation, has a massive consumer base, much of that base remains far below the income level of regular luxury consumers, meaning domestic companies often experience a difficult conundrum — if they want to tap into the wallets of China’s 1.3 billion consumers, they generally have only two real choices — toss brand equity aside and focus on the lowest-price-point consumer or bring a foreign brand with much higher brand equity to China and target the emerging middle class and wealthy consumers. As a result, the transition from local to global (or maybe more accurately, glocal), seems natural. In the capitalism-on-speed world of China’s major metropolitan areas, either you go global or you’re crushed by your competitors.

This week, the subject of Chinese companies purchasing established western fashion brands was raised in a Reuters article (via Canada’s Financial Post), which focused on the delicate balance some major Chinese companies are dealing with at the moment — whether to try to purchase distressed foreign brands to sell in the brands’ existing established markets or simply to buy the brands then control them as they please within the Chinese market. There is no guarantee that consumers in developed markets will bounce back from the recession to spend as freely on luxury goods and haute couture as they once did, but at the same time the majority of Chinese consumers are not in the market for these goods. Additionally, Chinese fashion companies may not yet have the management experience necessary to oversee a western brand (or its employees) in its usual markets, so time will probably be necessary for Chinese companies to work out the kinks that would emerge down the road if they were to focus too strongly on overseas markets.

According to some sources — such as the exporter interviewed in the Reuters article — Chinese companies shopping for western fashion brands would be better off counting on the continued growth of the Chinese middle class, as this area should see sustained growth that may outpace the rebound of the consumer in developed countries.

After decades of Made-in-China garments, China’s fashion industry is keen to move on from being just a mass manufacturer of clothes. It now wants to own western brands and to sell them to China’s 1.3 billion consumers.

The right to sell brands of several international fashion labels locally, such as Aquascutum and Pierre Cardin, have been recently acquired by Chinese clothes makers and sellers.

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Chinese High-End Consumers Reluctant To “Trade Down”

Those With A Taste For Luxury Goods In Emerging Markets Less Willing To Cut Back, HK Study Finds

While China has not remained unscathed by the global economic crisis, its luxury consumer market shows resilience in consumer confidence and willingness to shell out

While China has not remained unscathed by the global economic crisis, its luxury consumer market shows resilience in consumer confidence and willingness to shell out

One of the more surprising features of the global economic downturn, to some commentators, has been the relative health of the Asian consumer market throughout the crisis. Although developed markets like Japan and Korea have certainly been hit hard — as their high-tech and automotive export markets have declined substantially — emerging markets like Greater China and, to a lesser extent, India, where income gaps are still quite large and wealthy consumers have developed a taste for luxury goods are doing comparatively well.

This is not to say China hasn’t been hit by the slowdown — it has, as low-tech manufacturers and mass producers have, in many parts of the country, been forced to shut down or lay off thousands of workers. However, we are seeing that the specific class of Chinese luxury consumer is continuing to spend through the global recession, perhaps as a sort of badge of wealth, perhaps because these consumers just want to keep buying. There are plenty of theories why Chinese luxury consumers, unlike those in Japan and North America, aren’t waiting to buy their next handbag or car — however, one Hong Kong study in particular caught my eye:

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The Rising RMB And You: What Does It Mean For Art Collectors?

As China’s Currency Becomes Increasingly Global, Will Collectors Of Chinese Art Benefit?

As the RMB appreciates and becomes more convertible, Chinese assets like art look to be a smart hedge. Painting: Chinese contemporary artist Qi Zhilong's "A Chinese Girl In Male Military Uniform No. 2" (2006)

As the RMB appreciates and becomes more convertible, investing in Chinese assets like art looks like an even better option. Painting: Chinese contemporary artist Qi Zhilong's "A Chinese Girl In Male Military Uniform No. 2" (2006)

In recent months, a number of high-profile Chinese and world economists have increased their calls for the creation of a truly “global currency,” which would diminish the US dollar’s role as the de facto international currency sooner rather than later. Although this concept is still far off, as these economists concede, definitely within the next 10-20 years the dollar’s primacy will be challenged, if not completely nonexistent.

Although this is not some kind of dollar apocalypse, but rather a readjustment of the global economy based more on a realistic global picture. In the post-Cold War, post-BRIC-growth world, we are seeing the world economy pluralize rapidly. So a global currency will require an accurate portrayal of this multipolarity — thus, it is unlikely that the next global currency will be “from” one country. Rather, it is likely to be a multi-currency basket, or “supracurrency” — as the governor of the People’s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, himself called for in March.

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Luxury Brands Look To Shoppers In China For Cushion In Crisis

Gucci and Ferragamo Join Burberry In Opening New China Locations In ’09

Ferragamo in Shanghai: The Luxury brand hopes to add 7-8 locations in China this year

Ferragamo in Shanghai: The Luxury brand hopes to add 7-8 locations in China this year. Photo © Time

The Mercury News reports today on hopes by luxury retailers that well-heeled Chinese shoppers, who have cut back less than their Western and Japanese counterparts, can buoy the luxury goods market enough to get them through the economic downturn. While China itself has been hit hard by the global economic downturn — particularly in its manufacturing and export sectors — a series of domestic stimulus packages and efforts to bolster consumer confidence have begun in earnest to take effect (as we have written before). Although a broader recovery, especially in the more rural or far-flung areas, will take some time, in China’s metropolitan centers like Beijing and Shanghai, the wealthy and upper-middle-class have continued to shop. And for that, luxury brands from around the world are looking at this consumer class as one of their few bright spots in the global economy.

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Are There Still Business Opportunities in China? There Certainly Are

Stimulus Package Leads to Encouraging Signs From Consumers, Manufacturers, and Stocks

Interesting economic news coming out of China this week. It looks like the country’s economic stimulus plan has already started to effect positive developments in industrial output and bank lending. Although this does not mean that China’s economy is out of the woods just yet, naturally, it is a good sign that measures taken to combat the global recession are helping the situation.

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