Now that the Christmas shopping season is over and 2015 has arrived, it’s time for luxury companies to gear up for China’s most important gift-giving holiday: Chinese New Year. Every year, a growing number of retailers and hoteliers feature special products and promotions to commemorate the vitally important shopping and travel period. In preparation for China’s most important holiday, we’ve rounded up some of the key things luxury brands can do to appeal to their Chinese customers as they welcome the Year of the Sheep (or ram, or goat).
Honor this year’s zodiac animal
Over the past several years, more international luxury brands have taken up releasing special-edition Chinese New Year items celebrating the designated zodiac animal of the year. The key for luxury brands is to stick to their own unique heritage and style when coming up with their special items in order to truly appeal to discerning Chinese customers. This is especially easy for brands that already have heritage associated with the year’s animal, and the year of the horse was an easy one for the many luxury labels with equestrian heritage such as Hermès, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, and Burberry.
While the sheep may not be an identifier for as many luxury brands as the majestic horse, the few that do have associations with the sheep, ram, or goat can take full advantage of their identity.
One brand that’s going all out with this theme is prestigious winemaker Château Mouton Rothschild, which is taking advantage of its ram emblem with a special Chinese New Year Sotheby’s evening sale in Hong Kong on January 30. “We wish to celebrate the Chinese New Year with Mouton lovers in Asia and, above all, the start of the Year of the Ram, the emblem of our most prestigious wine: Château Mouton Rothschild,” says Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, chairman of the supervisory board of Baron Philippe de Rothschild. “We have arranged a certain number of themed lots, specific to the history of Mouton and the history of our family, to give a particular perspective to the auction. One lot contains labels illustrated with the ram. Another contains vintages ending in ‘eight,” an auspicious number in Asian cultures. A third lot of two imperials brings together the two Chinese painters who have given an artwork to Mouton, Gu Gan in 1996 and Xu Lei in 2008.”
Brands without sheep-related heritage aren’t out of luck, however—fashion labels can always promote wool items, meaning that British labels known for tweed should do especially well this year. Meanwhile, other brands are working with Chinese talent to celebrate this year’s animal: Davidoff cigars launched a special limited-edition collection of cigar accessories by Chinese designer Chen Jiang, while Patrón enlisted Chinese artist Peach Tao to design a special-edition Patrón Añejo tin for the holiday.
Pay attention to Chinese culture
In addition to special items, brands can also tap into Chinese New Year traditions to market to consumers. Every year, many high-end brands design special hongbao (红包), or red envelopes that are traditionally filled with money and given as gifts for the holiday. Last year, Céline, Gucci, Fendi, Furla, and Hugo Boss were among the labels that created special envelopes.
Chinese traditions can also take place in the digital realm as brands create Chinese New Year marketing campaigns on social media. Last year, Coach sponsored a special “red envelope” game on WeChat that allowed users to send virtual hongbao to family and friends containing gift cards and coupons. The campaign followed in the steps of WeChat’s massively successful hongbao game that became a viral sensation for Chinese New Year last year. In another example of luxury brands’ use of digital hongbao, last year, automaker Bentley sponsored a WeChat campaign that allowed people to specially design customized red envelopes and virtual greeting cards to send to friends.
Get in the holiday spirit for Chinese travelers
Chinese New Year is also a big vacation time in China, meaning that luxury retailers and hoteliers across the globe need to be ready for Chinese visitors. As a result, many boutiques and shopping centers set up Chinese New Year window displays and host special events. For example, last year, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, and Barney’s in New York all had special Chinese New Year decorations, promotions, or events, while Madrid department store El Corte featured a special display of Chinese designers for the holiday.
Since duty-free travel retail is also highly popular with Chinese tourists, many brands are releasing special Chinese New Year items for airport shops. Patrón’s Chinese New Year Patrón Añejo will be available in duty-free stores across the globe, while chocolatier Lindt has released a Chinese New Year gift package available exclusively in travel retail venues.
Meanwhile, hotels across the world are preparing to host Chinese guests with special holiday packages and meals. Luxury hotelier The Peninsula is celebrating Chinese New Year at all of its global locations with traditional decorations, lion dances, and music, and will offer in-room amenities including tangerines, melon seeds, dumplings, and chocolate coins. Its hotels around the globe from Chicago to Bangkok will be offering their own unique prix-fixe Chinese New Year menus. Hotels’ promotions can benefit retailers as well: in New York, The Peninsula is catering to high-spending Chinese shoppers with a bespoke Chinese New Year shopping experience with welcome tea, a holiday gift, and private store tours.