In 2018, the Trump administration’s trade war and an economic slowdown in China made for an unpredictable market. During the year, we interviewed various CEOs from luxury brands as well as from local and international e-commerce companies to see how they are riding out the changed climate.
Here, Jing Daily offers a year-end look at 8 (traditionally a lucky number in China) of our most popular CEO interviews of the year (as ranked by pageviews in descending order).
The former Wall-Streeter with 14 years of experience in leveraged finance shared what he observed in his last field trip in China, and why now, during a heated trade war, is the time for the brand to press onward there. He says the demand from Chinese tourists is not going down: the Chinese traffic to the Oscar de la Renta stores in the West is actually soaring.
“Regarding the trade war, I think, for us, perhaps it’s okay because we don’t have that much business in China as of now. So while other people are concerned, maybe this is a good time for us to press.”
2. CEO of 3.1 Phillip Lim, Wen Zhou
Despite the growing demand in China and he government’s effort to boost domestic spending, the business head behind the New York contemporary fashion brand is still cautious about expanding further into China, in every aspect — from carefully curated KOL collaborations and slowly testing sale channels to hosting art related experiential installations.
“Entering a market is not just about opening stores. Having the right people, having the right strategy, having the right branding, products, having the entire company’s support to be there, and also having the time and patience to test the market, are all much needed.”
Even though Chinese consumers account for one-third of luxury sales, the local e-commerce is still someimes falling behind in meeting customer expectations compared to their western counterparts. Secoo is trying to blaze a trail by pivoting its business to a premium lifestyle multi-category platform. Federica Marchionni, a veteran of the premium luxury world, aims to both elevate the company branding to mirror the hundred-year-old luxury powerhouses like Louis Vuitton and Chanel and to expand Secoo to overseas markets.
“Even though we aren’t making products, we’re curating and selecting and making sure the customer experience is a premium one.”
Amid the opening of the first concept store in Shanghai, the CEO of the Paris-based beauty retailer leaned in about digital strategy in China.
“Our goal is not merely on retail transactions, but to build a social community for beauty lovers in China, driven by Sephora’s unique perspectives on beauty and authentic user-generated content.”
Outlet shopping is the favorite activity for deal-seeking Chinese luxury shoppers. Value Retail, one of the biggest players in this industry, just underwent a rebranding this year in April to emphasize the shopping experience it offers (rather than their discounted prices). Founder and chairman of Value Retail, Scott Malkin, addressed the rebranding, the value of an offline experience in an increasingly online world, and the ever-evolving global Chinese consumer.
“We are not in the outlet business, we are in the business supporting the brands at full price and helping the brands develop full-price relationships with the consumers,”
The digital czar of the biggest luxury group in the world, Ian Rogers, recognized that China is pushing forward digital innovation in the luxury world, and he discussed how luxury is presented differently online in China (and why WeChat holds the key in luxury sales there).
“A high percentage of our customers are Chinese, a high percentage of those customers don’t buy in China, 100 percent of them have WeChat, so we see more opportunity in China than a challenge.”
The heir to the LVMH empire, Antoine Arnault, has many titles. He’s the head of two brands and overseas communications and image at LVMH. In the interview, Arnault specifically spoke about his role in pushing forward LVMH’s brand strengths and perspective as the initiator of Les Journées Particulières. The multi-city open-house event allows the public to experience the design houses. This year was the first time the event is went global with a focus on marketing to Chinese consumers, something Arnault introduced to connect with China’s experience-seeking set.
“We don’t think “okay, Chinese like red. Let’s do something red.” We trust our designers to create products that connect with our customers and we give them that creative freedom.”
This premium British e-commerce company is deep diving into the Chinese market and setting an example of how a foreign company can better localize. In this interview, Neves’ offers insights on its strategic marriage with JD.com, Tencent, and Condé Nast.
“If I need to really pick one challenge, it’s the talent, people…It is not easy for a Western company to find great talents in China who also speak English and want to work in a multinational company.”