Second-Tier Spotlight: Luxury (Finally) Coming To Hefei

Gucci, Versace, Burberry And Ferragamo Among Brands Soon To Debut In Eastern Chinese City


Artist rendering of Intime Center, the first section of which will open later this year

Artist rendering of Intime Center, the first section of which will open later this year

Jing Daily’s Second-Tier Spotlight” series looks at some of the key trends shaping China’s provincial capitals, often referred to as the country’s “second-tier” cities. Previously in the series, we’ve highlighted Xi’an’s surprisingly young luxury consumers, a “Goldfinger”-worthy publicity stunt in Changsha, jade fever in QingdaoShenyang’s love for second-hand shopsKunming’s quiet emergence as a luxury brand magnet, Wuhan’s burgeoning obsession with golf, and Ningbo’s “rich second generation” fueled luxury market. Today, we turn to Hefei, capital city of eastern Anhui province, which is just now getting its first luxury shopping center.

It’s not well known outside of China, and certainly isn’t known within China as a very luxurious city, but at the end of this year, the eastern city of Hefei, capital of Anhui province, will get its very own high-end department store. As the Chinese-language news site reports today, the luxury retail powerhouse Intime (银泰) will officially launch its newest store in Hefei later this year. As Linkshop notes, the location will essentially function as the centerpiece of the broader Intime Center, a sprawling complex that will eventually include offices, hotels and apartments.

A new department store isn’t much to residents of Shanghai, or even Shenyang, but for Hefei’s wealthier shoppers, it’s a major development. In the past, Hefei consumers had to travel to Nanjing, Shanghai or even Hong Kong to satisfy their luxury appetite, but soon they’ll be able to shop much closer to home. Currently, there are small counters for brands like Versace, Burberry, Mont Blanc, Cartier and Dunhill at Hefei malls like Wanqian (万千百货), Shangzhidu (商之都) and Drum Tower Business Plaza (鼓楼商厦), but Intime will be the first in the city to include independent brand boutiques, which at launch will include Max Mara, Tod’s, Burberry, Gucci and Versace.

According to the 2011 Hurun Wealth Report, Anhui province is now home to around 8,500 multi-millionaires, a rise of 1,400 over 2010. As newly minted millionaires continue to spring up in this eastern province, it’s not surprising to see luxury retailers dip in their toes. Still, brands have been rightfully cautious about entering the Anhui market in general and Hefei more specifically, as it’s something of a blank slate. As one unnamed manager from Hefei’s Golden Eagle International Shopping Center told Anhui News this week, though some high-end labels may have the “intention” to launch in Hefei, most are instead doing long-term market research and keeping a close eye on their competitors’ ROI before making the call to jump in.

While affluent Hefeinese may have the spending power, Anhui remains relatively poor in comparison to neighboring Zhejiang province and brand awareness can’t rival nearby Shanghai and Nanjing. As such, Intime department store — and later, Intime Center — are only the first steps for Hefei to actually become a city in which major brands feel obligated to build a Beijing-worthy flagship.