Tag Archives: japan

Diamond Sales Get Huge China Boost

Xinhua Reports 12.7% Rise In Imports In First Half Of 2009 To $300 Million As China Eyes Top Spot In Global Diamond Consumption

Diamonds are becoming more popular -- and accessible -- every year in China

Diamonds are becoming more popular -- and accessible -- every year in China

Good economic news in China this year has translated to good news for diamond producers, if figures released recently by China’s news agency, Xinhua, are correct. This year, following a nearly 50% decline in diamond sales in the US and 24% drop in Japan — according to China’s Global Times — China has become the world’s third largest diamond market with $300 million in sales through the first half of the year. Although this might sound like a lot, particularly in the context of the global economic slowdown, the Chinese market still has a lot of room to grow. Despite rough figures in the US over the past year, the American market still accounts for nearly half of world diamond sales, so the emerging Chinese and Indian markets will take several years of sustained growth to reach the capacity and consumer awareness of the established American and Japanese markets, a prospect that must please diamond producers immensely.

According to the Global Times, less informed middle class Chinese consumers are likely to be the easiest to reach for years to come, as diamonds are still relatively new to the Chinese market (about as new as the middle class itself). As younger Chinese buyers slowly become more informed about diamond grading and quality standards, the market is likely develop and mature:

Diamonds, once a luxury rarely owned by a Chinese family, has now become a must for Chinese newlyweds. According to [Wang Fei, researcher at the Cheungkei Research Center for Luxury Goods and Services (SITE) in the University of International Business and Economics,] the largest population of diamond buyers is newlywed couples born in the 1970s and 1980s.

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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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Valentino Sees Surge In Demand In China

Luxury Retailer Notes That Stabilized Sales, Huge Growth In Greater China Have Fueled Asia Expansion

Italian fashion company Valentino is looking to expand quickly in Asia, with a focus on China & Hong Kong

Italian fashion company Valentino is looking to expand quickly in Asia, with a focus on China & Hong Kong

Most global fashion houses have, over the years, worked hard to make something of a foothold in the Chinese market. As we’ve written before, one of the first major Western fashion companies to enter China following the “reform and opening” policy of the late 1970s was Pierre Cardin, who began selling in China in 1979. Since then, major fashion boutiques from around the world can be found in China’s largest cities, and some have progressed into smaller (but still large by most standards) second- and third-tier cities throughout the country. Despite major setbacks for some retailers in formerly reliable markets like Japan — where companies like French Connection and Versace have recently closed down operations — and a drop in demand in the American market (although that has, according to reports today, stabilized for many luxury companies), the surge in demand for certain designers in the Chinese mainland should soften the blow in revenue that these companies are experiencing as a result of the global economic downturn.

The Valentino Fashion Group — which includes the Valentino, Hugo Boss, and Marlboro labels, today announced that the company has benefitted from the quick rise in consumer demand throughout China. From Bloomberg:

Revenue in China and Hong Kong jumped 40 percent in the past month, and the company expects that pace to continue, Sassi said backstage after the show…

Although sales in Japan were described today by Valentino’s CEO as “not that bad,” the company’s major focus is store expansion in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asian markets like Singapore:

[Valentino CEO Stefano Sassi] said the group is opening Valentino stores in Asia — Singapore, China and Japan. “These are not great times to open shops, but we are going ahead with what needs to be done.”

Japan’s Mitsuoka Motor Co. To Enter Chinese Market

Japanese Luxury Automaker Plans To Open Beijing Showroom By Q1 2010

The Mitsuoka Orochi will retail for around 800,000 RMB (US $117,177) in China when it arrives next year

The Mitsuoka Orochi will retail for around 800,000 RMB (US $117,177) in China when it arrives next year

The growing Chinese luxury market is a prime target for many Asian companies that have found demand in their home countries — mainly South Korea and Japan — either growing at a snail’s pace or simply remaining stagnant. As formerly luxury-mad consumers in traditional markets like Japan cut back on their spending, high-end Japanese companies have started to look abroad for more opportunities, with China remaining the natural choice as a result of its proximity and massive population.

Recently, Japan’s Mitsuoka Motor Co., one of the country’s major luxury automakers, announced their plans to enter the Chinese market next year, starting with a showroom in Beijing that is slated to open in April. To lead their China efforts, the company will display their Orochi model at next year’s Beijing Auto Show and follow up their Beijing strategy with new dealerships in other top-tier cities:

The Orochi will spearhead Mitsuoka’s debut into China. The company plans to display the car at next year’s Beijing Auto Show, and to open dealerships in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

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Can Chinese Luxury Cars Catch On In America?

Recent Interest By Chinese Automakers In Established Brands Like Volvo, Saab Show Their Global Ambitions; But Will Western Consumers Choose To “Drive Chinese”?

Can BYD crack the American luxury car market? Only time will tell.

Can BYD crack the American luxury car market? Only time will tell.

With well-known auto brands like Sweden’s Volvo and Saab up for sale, Chinese brands Geely, Beijing Automotive and FAW — relative unknowns in the global car market — have been in the news as possible suitors. It is no secret that Chinese automakers have their sights set on the export market, and want to see their vehicles gain popularity on lucrative markets like North America. Here, though, is the largest opportunity as well as the most significant challenge faced by Chinese car brands, a bit of a catch-22: while China is the world’s largest auto market — owing, naturally, to its vast population — Chinese car companies need to develop their luxury fleets and export more in order to turn a substantial profit, but for higher-priced vehicles, Chinese consumers virtually always choose foreign-made automobiles, and Chinese brands are almost completely unknown by luxury car buyers abroad.

At the same time, Chinese carmakers must come up against biases about the perceived quality of their products — fostered, perhaps in a large proportion, by the fact that Chinese brands have absolutely no brand equity abroad, since:

1.) most of these companies are only a few years old, and

2.) reports about Chinese-made vehicles tend to be on the sensationalist side and focus on a quality gap or on perceived “counterfeiting” of car models. While many of the problems faced by Chinese carmakers abroad boil down to sloppy or simply “bad” PR, it is, in some ways, understandable that non-Chinese car buyers know little about Chinese car companies — because many Chinese car buyers don’t know much about them either. Quite simply, they need to work harder to differentiate themselves, pin down strong brand messaging, and really push hard to ensure they conform to all safety and emissions standards — or exceed them.

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Automotive Brand-Building In China: Opportunities And Challenges Abound

Western, Chinese Brands Vie For Customer Loyalty As Emerging Middle Class And “Nouveau Riche” Demand Continues To Grow

Buick has capitalized on its reputation for quality and luxury in the Chinese market, enjoying massive success and launching China-only models like the Excelle

Buick has capitalized on its reputation for quality and luxury in the Chinese market, enjoying massive success and launching China-only models like the Excelle

As demand for new vehicles has remained sluggish in developed markets over the past two years, major automakers have rightly looked to retool their strategies to draw customers and build their brands in new markets. As we’ve written before, selling your brand in markets like China, where customers expect different things — and derive status from very specific brand attributes —  represents both a major opportunity and a new challenge. A good example of an automaker that has benefitted from the “blank slate” allowed it by entry into the young Chinese market is Buick, which has a reputation as a car for older, or middle-aged, drivers in its native market, the USA, yet has — through aggressive branding and advertising efforts — developed a reputation as a sleek, luxurious, youthful brand in the Chinese market.

So how can car brands optimize their brand equity in China? Depending on where they come from, their strategies differ greatly. While American car makers like Ford have had great success in overseas markets like Europe by pushing their reliability and value, in the Chinese market imported cars are, generally, chosen by buyers to be a status symbol, rather than “inexpensive.” Ford, then, cannot compete on price alone, as Chinese automakers like Chery and Geely — which have sizeable lineups of entry-level models — will always be able to undercut them. As a result, it is important for foreign car makers to not just build their brand in China, but to build a strong brand in China, one that speaks to Chinese consumers in a way that domestically-produced autos cannot. To break it down further, foreign automakers need to build a strong, distinctive brand — a German car must fit Chinese conceptions of German cars, Japanese cars Japanese attributes and so on.

In practice, how are foreign automakers faring in their Chinese branding strategies? Today, Reuters looks into the “uphill road” these brands are traveling in China, and how they have refocused their branding strategies to varying degrees of success. Using the example of a “nouveau riche” car buyers who has traded his BMW in for an Audi  — since the Audi has developed a strong reputation in China as a car for bureaucrats or (comparatively) “old money” while BMW is considered a brand for the nouveau riche (a group into which the buyer in question is loath to be grouped) — the article provides valuable insight into the particularities of a market so new that even seasoned marketers and branding execs are often at a loss to develop long-term strategies.

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Mainland Visitors Driving Taiwan’s Tourism Industry

Influx Of Mainland Chinese Boosting The Island’s Tourism Figures, Benefitted By Relaxed Travel Rules

Mainland Chinese tourists have flocked to Taiwan since travel rules were relaxed in 2008

Mainland Chinese tourists have flocked to Taiwan since travel rules were relaxed in 2008

The global tourism industry has been hit hard by the global economic crisis, as formerly profligate travelers from Europe, Japan, and North America scale back their vacation plans this summer, and the tourism industries in the periphery of Greater China — Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan — have been no exception. Macau has responded to this drop in wider demand by reaching out more aggressively to Mainland tourists, who find traveling to China’s special administrative regions far easier than applying for foreign visas. We’ve written on Macau’s outreach strategies, but Taiwan is another market altogether. With the election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou last year, and ties between Taiwan and the Mainland gradually warming, China issued new travel rules that made the process far easier, and soon after began direct flights to Taiwan for the first time in nearly 60 years.

Since then, Taiwan’s travel industry has benefitted from the influx of visitors. According to this press release, the number of overseas visitors jumped 13.8 per cent in the first five months this year to 1.79 million, most of them being tourists. However, the real meat of the release is that the number of Mainland Chinese visitors has surged even as tourists from other major Taiwan tourism markets have plummeted:

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