Jing Daily’s Top Posts for the Week
With China’s luxury industry expected to become the world’s largest by 2015, and the country’s online population swelling, dozens of companies, including domestic media portals like Sina and Netease, new upstarts like Shangpin, Zouxiu and ihush, and international players like Yoox have jumped on the high-end online retail bandwagon. With “luxury e-commerce” becoming a hot topic in the Chinese-language media, investment funds too have plowed into the segment. According to a report by iResearch, Chinese luxury e-commerce platforms received over 12 rounds of financing in the first half of 2011, raising a record US$283 million.
With online shopping moving up the value chain, more competition looking to crack the market, and more individual brands expressing interest in adding e-commerce functionality in China, there’s plenty to be optimistic about. But as an extremely young and untested market, full of similarly young and untested companies, storm clouds may be looming.
Although the private aviation industry in China remains plagued by red tape and regulatory ambiguity, jet makers and private aviation operators are optimistic about the market, regularly referring to China as something of a “blank slate.” With the Chinese aerospace authorities gradually loosening their tight grip on low- and, even more slowly, high-altitude airspace, and demand rising among wealthy entrepreneurs, business execs, celebrities and even government officials, the race is on to see which private aviation operators will win out in the nascent, but much-discussed mainland China market.
Recently, Jing Daily spoke to VistaJet founder Thomas Flohr and brand director Nina Flohr about some of the particularities of this rapidly developing market. With offices worldwide, including one in Hong Kong, VistaJet is currently eyeing an expanded presence in mainland China — a country to which it currently flies Hong Kong-based clients on a nearly daily basis.
With Autumn Auction Week in Hong Kong just around the corner, Christie’s Education is set to introduce another new short course aimed squarely at China’s new collectors. Following on the heels of its previous short courses held earlier this year and last fall, from November 25-28, Christie’s will introduce the new short course, “Works of Art for the Qing Emperors: History, Collecting, Market.” Held in English (November 25-26) and Mandarin (November 27-28), the course will educate attendees about the artistic and cultural legacy of China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644- 1911). Centering first on historical background and the aesthetic tastes of the great Qing emperors, then on how best to approach this booming auction category as a new collector, the two-day course includes gallery tours, lectures from guest speakers, and, of course, cocktail hours.
As Elaine Kwok, Hong Kong Course Director for Christie’s, noted this week, these short courses (while still relatively new) have attracted massive interest among new collectors in the region.
Following previous collaborations with designers like Jeremy Scott, Manish Arora and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, the art-focused Swiss watchmaker Swatch has tapped the Chinese fashion designer Uma Wang for its next international partnership. One of the most high-profile rising stars on the Shanghai fashion scene, Wang will design three watches for Swatch, which will be unveiled next March.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time Uma Wang and Swatch have come together, with the watchmaker sponsoring one of Wang’s fashion shows last year. In recent years, Swatch has made a massive marketing push in China, lending its name to the restored Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai and choosing the city over New York, Paris or London for the global launch of its recent Kidrobot collection.
Arguably the most important economic, cultural and fashion hub in western China, the luxury market in Chengdu has taken off in recent years, with the city regularly cited as a key new market for top high-end brands. Last year, Louis Vuitton registered record sales of $138 million in the city, while Cartier generated more revenue in Chengdu than in any other city in China. This August, at a fashion event in Chengdu, Liu Ruiming, editor-in-chief of Forbes China, projected that luxury sales in Chengdu will soon reach 10 billion yuan (US$1.57 billion), making it one of China’s largest single high-end markets. But, sales figures and (at times breathless) media coverage aside, what’s actually happening on the ground in Chengdu?
To get a better sense of the trends currently shaping this vast metropolitan area, home to over 14 million people, Jing Daily recently spoke to an operations manager of a major global luxury brand — who, due to company policy, spoke on the condition of anonymity — about the current state of the Chengdu luxury market, the buying behavior of locals, the service level of luxury professionals, and more. Interview translated from the original Mandarin Chinese.