With the Chinese government’s anti-corruption campaign in high gear and a global shift away from logos, 2013 was all about “stealth wealth.” Instead, we can now expect an emphasis on self-expression and individualism among Chinese luxury consumers, with several developments paving the way for a focus on shaping one’s personal taste.
“Stealth wealth” may have emphasized blending in, but this coming year, Chinese luxury consumers will be searching for ways to differentiate themselves from their peers. However, think niche; not bling. The government austerity drive continues and many wealthy consumers are striving to avoid the label of baofahu, or nouveau riche.
While this year’s slowdown led to Bain & Company’s estimate of 2.5 percent luxury sales growth for the China market, many smaller labels are nonetheless seeing sales rise by double-digit rates. Businesses have decided that now is the time to act upon this trend: niche label-heavy retailers 10 Corso Como, Lane Crawford, and Galeries Lafayette all recently opened mainland locations.
Smaller multi-brand boutiques are on the rise in both the brick-and-mortar and e-commerce spheres. Digital outlets for self-expression such as fashion blogs and new social media platforms will shape tastes in the year to come, and retailers are offering more special-edition and bespoke items, as well as VIP services, to Chinese clients.
Brands should also take note of this trend’s global implications. More Chinese tourists are traveling independently as their international luxury spending grows, meaning that attracting these individualistic clients to stores abroad is just as important as doing so at home.
This article appeared on Luxury Society for its annual “Luxury Industry Predictions from the Experts” feature.