Store Caters To Shanghai’s Fashion-Forward
Although China’s home-grown fashion industry is still in its infancy, a new generation of internationally trained young designers and digitally savvy fashion followers in the country could gradually transform it into a global player. With the emergence of Chinese independent designers and a dedicated, yet niche, buyer base, a handful of curated multi-designer stores have opened in recent years in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. As Jing Daily noted earlier this week, examples of Chinese multi-brand retail range from the very small scale — e.g., Beijing’s Triple-Major and Dong Liang — to larger department stores like JOYCE and Lane Crawford.
Officially opening its doors on October 10, 2010 in Shanghai’s Xintiandi neighborhood, the independent multi-designer boutique Alter stocks a hand-picked selection of 30 cutting-edge designers from around the world, from Jason Wu to this season’s newest star Simone Rocha. In addition to apparel, Alter also sells jewelry, footwear, fragrances and household accessories. As Alter CEO, Guan Longxiao recently said, Alter offers customers a “versatile” collection. At the store, Guan said, shoppers can listen to music, read and relax, enjoy art exhibitions and learn about the brands that are just entering the China market.
Recently, Jing Daily Shanghai correspondent Erica Ji traveled to Alter to speak with the store’s marketing rep about Alter’s target customer, its observations on the China market and future plans. Interview translated from the original Chinese.
Jing Daily (JD): Can you tell us a little about Alter, and what inspired you to open Alter in Shanghai?
Alter (A): Alter is a multi-brand lifestyle concept store, and we try to make ourselves synonymous with edginess and innovative fashion design. Although Shanghai is full of big brands, shoppers are getting bored with the homogenization of what these huge brands are selling and their visual displays. Also, staff at most of these big stores are often really arrogant, and that kind of attitude just make the shopping experience that much worse.
We’re focused on giving people a good experience and collecting the best designers and brands we can for customers who care about quality and customer service. We’re selling products, but we’re also promoting a certain attitude towards fashion.
Jing Daily (JD): Who are your target customers?
A: They’ve naturally got unique taste and a sharp vision. They have high spending power but aren’t blindly following “big brands.” They’re educated, have an international perspective, and a mature aesthetic sense.
JD: How often do you bring in new stock?
A: We usually update our collections every quarter. In the meantime, though, our buyers tend to bring back some unexpected things from time to time. Our customers like this sense of spontaneity. Tossing things in the mix unexpectedly is always more exciting, isn’t it?
JD: Alter currently offers online shopping. Are the products you sell online the same as those sold in the store?
A: The frequency with which we update our online store is about the same as our physical store. Shoppers can check out our new products online then decide whether to give them a shot in the physical store.
JD: Currently, several international e-commerce sites offer free shipping to China. How do you maintain a competitive advantage in terms of product mix and pricing strategy?
A: To make sure customers get their orders safely and quickly, we work with top logistics companies. We don’t want to cut corners for the sake of small price differences. Most of the brands you see at this store are sold exclusively by Alter. Also, we’ve got a pretty wide spectrum of products and designers. Our product mix ranges from apparel and household accessories to electronics. Customers can find pretty high-end brands here, along with more mass-market brands that are more affordable. That’s one way we compete.
JD: Beijing has the designer boutique Feispace, which also offers online shopping. What would you say Alter’s strengths are compared to Feispace?
A: Well, in general, we stock a more high-end product line and try to make sure to focus on designers and products that are hard to find elsewhere. That’s part of what I mean when I say we promote a certain attitude.
JD: Do you have any plans to open more locations outside of Shanghai?
A: We’ve got a second store in the pipeline, but that’s all I can say at the moment!
Jing Daily correspondent Erica Ji is the Shanghai-based writer and photographer behind the popular Chinese fashion blog Fossilized Seed, which focuses on emerging designers the world over. Erica holds an MA in Marketing from Beijing’s Renmin University and worked at international advertising agencies for seven years. After that, Erica shifted into the field of fashion design and is working to become a professional designer.