With All Eyes on Chengdu, How Should Luxury Approach Other New First-Tier Cities?

What Happened: As a rising new-first-tier city, Chengdu has been on the map for luxury brands for years. Even LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault felt the need to visit the city in April 2019. As China has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, attention on the city has intensified, and it is now being recast in an even more dazzling light, making it even more attractive to fashion brands. There has been an increasing number of pop-up brand exhibitions in the city and many brands are even tapping the city for their retail debut in China. 

According to the report “First Launch in Chengdu Brand Study 2019,” the Southwestern city was the top choice for a huge number of retail openings last year. A large number of these came from Chinese brands who debuted a store in the city, while some international brands chose it to mark their first market entry into China. And, over the last week, local luxury brand, Shang Xia, and Korean eyewear name, Gentle Monster, both opened their first flagship in Southwest China — staking a claim in Sichuan Province’s capital. 

Jing Take: Chengdu has certainly proved itself, and has come through China’s testing phase to mature as a regional market of its own. Now, the question brands need to ask themselves is, how can they develop strategies to connect with consumers in other new-first-tier cities, and go even deeper? 

Chengdu

Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu. Photo: Shutterstock

If we look closely at Chengdu — the city that’s deemed as “cultural capital” of China in a new index by Vogue Business in China — it has distinguished itself with diversity, vibrant youth culture, and an advanced appreciation of fashion. Little wonder a forward-thinking house like Maison Margiela opened its first concept store there (it already has a boutique in Beijing’s SKP). 

What’s more, the provincial capital’s standard of living and potential for tourism are also high points that should be taken into account. A quick search on China’s review app Dianping indicates that, interestingly, Chengdu now has more cafes than Beijing (11,163 as opposed to 7,631); this reflects its laid-back culture and its growing appreciation for a greater quality of life. Furthermore, food and restaurant tips and travel guides to the city have become popular topics for local bloggers. Both are excellent signs from which we can deduce that foot traffic for luxury brands’ exhibitions and stores should be strong. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media. 

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