During the opening of the Hollister Beijing store in the Sanlitun Village on Saturday—the seventh Abercrombie & Fitch-owned retail location to enter China—the line outside the store made it seem as though they’re giving the California dream away for free. Which, depending on your definition of the California dream, they are.
Located diagonally behind the Uniqlo store in the main courtyard of the Village, the new retail location dominated the space, boasting video screens in lieu of traditional signage as a rolling clip of surfers and crashing waves served as a backdrop to the Hollister logo. And if that wasn’t enough to catch passerby attention, their monolithic opening weekend line certainly did the trick.
To build the anticipation for the main event, Hollister flew in some of their finest talent in the form of male “lifeguard” models, who attracted small crowds days before the opening for photo ops. The models arrived with their own discreet security team, which served as protection against any incidents like a recent David Beckham stampede that occurred in China a few weeks ago.
This pageantry, which is a signature of Hollister’s parent company Abercrombie & Fitch, seemed to need no translation as both locals and tourists dove camera-phone-first into the crowd. During the pre-opening, girls fueled the crowd’s excitement by floating rumors that the models were staying in Sanlitun’s nearby boutique art hotel The Opposite House and frequented certain expat-heavy bars and clubs during the nights.
When the opening day arrived, it was clear that the pre-opening buildup had paid off when the line wrapped around the enormous Sanlitun Village courtyard. The event was successful in attracting Chinese customers, as the queue consisted mostly of local young men and women who came prepared with snacks and cameras. While foreigners weren’t necessarily fans of waiting in line, they certainly snapped pictures of the scene as they walked by.
Once past the line’s velvet rope that was guarded with the assistance of at least four security guards, the models were waiting in their toned and tanned glory to snap free Polaroid photos with shoppers for a souvenir. Upon reaching the entrance, customers were greeted with a casual and a perfectly accented Southern Californian “Hey, what’s up?” by the store’s staff, a strategy used in many Abercrombie stores across Asia to convey a sense of U.S. culture and brand heritage. The store itself reflected the typical design elements the brand is known for—dark and heavily scented.
From the opening events, it is clear that Abercrombie & Fitch has the act of bringing the “Southern Californian dream” to China down to a science. This marketing strategy was also used for Abercrombie & Fitch’s Hong Kong store opening, albeit with a slightly smaller crowd. In the end, we will see if these promotional efforts pay off—on Hollister’s opening day in Beijing, it seemed as though more guests left with Polaroids than with shopping bags.
However, the crowd’s excitement and enthusiasm never seemed to wane. For now, China seems to love the Abercrombie brands, or at the very least, the models and photo ops that accompany them.