Jing Daily’s Top Posts for the Week
Though it’s impressive to see potential Chinese buyers showing up at this sort of event, it bears noting that while Chinese collectors have shown an interest in learning about and exposing themselves to Western art, their buying has remained by and large focused primarily on art and antiques of all categories from China. Much of this has to do with the greater prestige of Chinese art among these buyers’ peers, their deeper understanding of Chinese art and culture, and the relative ease of buying high-quality historical pieces at overseas auctions and those in Hong Kong. Having only entered the art market in the last decade, or more realistically in the last five years, Chinese collectors are still playing catch-up, working to build up their core collections of top Chinese art and antiques.
While some are placing bets that Chinese collectors will follow in the footsteps of Japanese buyers, who spent much of the 1980s scouring the globe for Warhols, Picassos and even Renoirs, not everyone is convinced.
As Jing Daily reported last week, the American luxury retail group Neiman Marcus is finally set to kick off its much-discussed China expansion with a US$28 million investment in the privately held e-commerce company Glamour Sales Holding. Rather than digging into the market with a major roll-out of brick-and-mortar locations in China, Neiman Marcus, in partnership with Glamour Sales, plans to focus solely on the lucrative online retail market. By the end of this year, Neiman Marcus and Glamour Sales will launch an all-new Chinese-language e-commerce website, offering shoppers an “expertly curated mix” of full-price, current-season offerings.
To get a little more insight into the Neiman Marcus Group’s broader strategy for the China market, Jing Daily recently exchanged a Q&A with Shanghai-based Group rep Chris Luan.
It’s no secret that recent years have seen a rapidly growing slice of the Chinese population fall under the spell of the automobile, with the country surpassing the US two years ago to become the world’s largest auto market. As a growing middle class spends more time (and money) on domestic travel, one development that’s taken shape recently has been a burgeoning interest in that very Western of pastimes: road trips. And for a tiny but potentially lucrative sliver of those comparatively wealthy, road-bound Chinese, this fascination is driving demand for another symbol of the open road: the RV.
Though the RV market in China is barely in its infancy, the country’s niche consumer has proven to be highly motivated and willing to spend, despite the comparatively high price of ownership in the country.
Luxury automakers may finally be seeing tougher times in China, as the red-hot sales figures seen since 2008-2009 start to cool, but this isn’t stopping the likes of Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and BMW from creating special “China-only” editions for what has become one of their critical markets. As Christoph Stuermer, a Frankfurt-based analyst at IHS Automotive, recently told Bloomberg, following a 34 percent leap in 2011, growth in China’s premium-light vehicle segment is expected to slow to 24 percent, and in response, major automakers like Mercedes-Benz have kicked up their discounts to spur sales.
Yet in the ultra-premium segment, where British marques like Bentley and Rolls reign supreme, aggressive localization and pent-up demand in inland areas are expected to keep sales comparatively high in 2012.
Owner of 18 luxury “Maisons,” including Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc, Vacheron Constantin and Shanghai Tang, this week the French luxury group Richemont cemented its greater focus on the China market by opening its own “retail academy” in Shanghai. Situated on Huahai Zhong Road, amidst dozens of high-end boutiques and flagships, the school is ostensibly aimed at addressing one of the biggest issues facing the luxury industry within China: poor customer service. Attended by Richemont Group execs, the opening of the new Shanghai academy this week was lauded as a major step in teaching corporate culture, and building and maintaining an international level of service as Richemont-owned brands continue their inland expansion throughout China.