Exclusive | How Do These Luxury Brand CEOs View China Market?

1月 18, 2024

In 2023, the Chinese fashion and luxury goods market experienced a revival and fluctuations, with many uncertainties still ahead. However, the  strategies and layouts by fashion and luxury brands show that the majority of these brands’ executives still regard the China market as a top priority.

Throughout the past year, founders, CEOs, and executives of luxury brands and groups have been visiting stores across China, conducting research, and deeply engaging with their Chinese teams, eager to capture the latest market trends. They are also actively considering how to expand their retail networks and marketing efforts in China with the right intensity and pace.

Through numerous exclusive interviews, Luxe.CO had the privilege of having in-depth, face-to-face conversations with many of these individuals. This coverage features highlights from 14 CEOs/Presidents/General Managers/Family Heirs of 13 international luxury brands, sharing their views on the China market, their understanding of the opportunities and challenges, and their strategic priorities in China.

What Makes the China Market Unique?

— Consumers have a strong cultural awareness, resonating more easily with brands

Buccellati, third-generation family members Andrea Buccellati and Luca Buccellati

“Although everyone says China is a new market, but my opinion is that it is not a new market. China has thousands of years of history, and people easily resonate with a brand like Buccellati that has a long history and heritage of craftsmanship.”

“When Buccellati first entered China, I was surprised by the cultural awareness of young Chinese consumers. They even knew more about the brand’s historical details than I did!”

In November 2017, Buccellati first entered the Chinese mainland market, opening its first boutique in Shanghai’s Plaza 66. Now, Buccellati has 10 boutiques and 1 pop-up store in mainland China, located in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, and Sanya.

In September 2023, the Italian high-end jewelry brand Buccellati opened a new boutique and art exhibition at the MGM Hotel in Macau, China. Luxeplace.com was invited to the event and had an exclusive interview with Buccellati’s third-generation family members, Andrea Buccellati and Luca Buccellati.

PIAGET, China CEO Sonia Carpentier

“Whether it’s about luxury goods or jewelry and watches, Chinese customers have grown through self-education. The more they know, the more they demand. They expect brands to innovate more and tell more stories.”

“I also sense that a richer history of luxury brands will be increasingly favored by Chinese customers. This stems from the Chinese clientele’s fondness for history and culture. While every country has its own cultural and historical stories to tell, I believe that in China, culture and history have already become a part of daily life, even a source of national pride.”

On June 9, 2023, the 25th Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) opened, with Swiss jewelry and watch brand PIAGET partnering with SIFF to launch a “Young Filmmaker Support Program.”

During the festival, Sonia Carpentier, the newly appointed CEO of PIAGET China, gave an exclusive interview to Luxeplace.com.

— Younger consumers, faster learning curves, craving for novelty

ALAÏA, Global CEO Myriam Serrano

“In China, I have talked to some VIC (Very Important Customer) clients. They have their own careers and are eager for novelty. They like ALAÏA because it makes them recognizable in the crowd and feel different. These clients are also our primary target.”

Since 2014, when ALAÏA entered the mainland market with the help of Beijing SKP, the brand has opened its first boutique in Shanghai’s Plaza 66. Currently, ALAÏA has 5 stores in China and is continuously seeking more suitable locations to expand in the Chinese market.

At the end of 2023, Myriam Serrano, CEO of ALAÏA, began her journey in China and gave an exclusive interview to Luxeplace.com, sharing the brand’s next development plans in the Chinese market.

A.Lange & Söhne, Global CEO Wilhelm Schmid

“I believe the uniqueness of the Chinese market lies in the exceptionally rapid learning pace of its consumers.”

“This poses a significant challenge for any brand that wants to safeguard its reputation because once you make a mistake, that error becomes widely known and spreads. I think many brands underestimate this aspect.”

“Furthermore, when it comes to wristwatches, China is still a very young market, and its potential is yet to be fully tapped into.”

During the 2023 “Watches and Wonders” Shanghai high-end watch exhibition, Wilhelm Schmid, the global CEO of A.Lange & Söhne, a German high-end watch brand under the Richemont Group, gave an exclusive interview to Luxeplace.com. We heard many unique insights about the development of the high-end watch industry and the expansion in the Chinese market.

— Increasing maturity and continuous growth in the Chinese market

Ferrari, Greater China President Giuseppe Cattaneo

“On the one hand, China is a rapidly developing emerging market; on the other hand, let’s not forget that China is still a very young market.”

“Therefore, whether it’s building brand differentiation and perception, communicating brand stories with users, explaining the history and significance of different models, or promoting track-driving culture, we still need patience and time for the Chinese market.”

“The Chinese automotive market is becoming more mature, consumption is continuously upgrading, and demand is still growing. I am full of expectations for its future development. Therefore, especially in mainland China, it is a very inspiring and energetic market for me to expand into.”

In late July 2023, Luxeplace.com was invited by the Italian super-luxury car brand Ferrari to attend the unveiling of the new Ferrari Roma Spider at the iconic Aranya Auditorium in Qinhuangdao, a structure reminiscent of an ancient Roman amphitheater.

At the event, Luxeplace.com conducted an extensive two-hour conversation with Giuseppe Cattaneo, President of Ferrari Greater China. He shared insights from multiple perspectives, including the brand, users, market, and models.

Strategic Focus of Luxury Brands in the China Market

— Communicating Brand Positioning and Amplifying Iconic Products

Boucheron, Global CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne

“At that time, we established two priority strategies. Firstly, to accurately convey Boucheron’s brand positioning to consumers: we are a distinguished and avant-garde French high jewelry house from Place Vendôme in Paris.”

“During that period, I organized multiple dinners for VIP customers from Beijing and Shanghai, and through close communication, I understood that in the customers’ minds, Boucheron was already one of the top-tier high jewelry brands.”

“Secondly, as a ‘new brand’ entering a new market, you need to make customers aware of what your iconic products are, so our second step in the Chinese market was more about explaining our signature products.”

At the end of March 2023, Hélène Poulit-Duquesne embarked on her first visit to China since the pandemic. During her two-day intensive itinerary, she and her team focused on inspecting boutiques in Shanghai and Beijing. In an exclusive interview with Luxeplace.com, she shared her plans and aspirations for the Chinese market.

Edrington Group, Asia Pacific Managing Director Francois Saurel

“When you come to China with hopes of success and bring your products, the first question you should ask yourself is: Are my products authentic enough? Are they interesting enough?”

“In China, many brands are eager for rapid growth, focusing on numbers and rushing to expand their distribution channels. They believe that simply making Chinese people aware of their brand will lead to success. But Chinese consumers are not that easily convinced.”

“If you’re not ready to introduce yourself to consumers and provide them with an exceptional experience, don’t be too hasty in seeking fame. Otherwise, you won’t create any value, and consumers will reject you, which is a common occurrence.”

In August 2023, The Macallan, a high-end single malt Scotch whisky brand under the globally renowned spirits company Edrington Group, launched “The Macallan Litha” in Shanghai. Prior to the launch, Luxeplace spoke with Francois Saurel, Managing Director of Edrington Group Asia Pacific, about The Macallan’s development in the Chinese market.

— Opening Boutiques and Strengthening Brand Experience

Tiffany & Co., Global President and CEO Anthony Ledru

“Further strengthening the global retail network is one of Tiffany’s important strategies. Retail is crucial as it helps the brand strengthen its connection with consumers.”

“Boutique stores allow consumers to immerse themselves in the world of Tiffany, experiencing its unique charm. At the same time, boutiques can deepen the emotional connection with consumers. Through VIP experiences, store events, and the opening of new stores, the brand can foster a closer relationship with consumers.”

In December 2023, Tiffany & Co. opened a new store in Shanghai’s Taikoo Li Qiantan, marking another important milestone in Tiffany’s global retail market following the April reopening of its iconic Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York.

Luxeplace.com conducted an exclusive interview with Anthony Ledru, where he outlined Tiffany’s latest deployments in the global and Chinese markets.

Breitling, Global CEO Georges A. Kern

“I think in China, it is very different. In China, boutique stores are important.”

“So the question is, how many do you run yourself, we call them internal boutiques, or how many are run by our retail partners. And here, we need to find the right balance.”

“In the upcoming year, our target is to open more than 20 new boutiques.”

“It is important to acknowledge that China is an emerging market where the luxury industry has thrived for only 20-30 years. In other words, while you may see a mix of large and small retail counters in the U.S., the established retailer network is less extensive in China, leading consumers to gravitate more towards boutiques.”

In June 2023, Georges A. Kern, the global CEO of the Swiss independent watch brand Breitling, gave an exclusive interview to Luxeplace.com.

During the interview, he expressed great confidence and anticipation for the Chinese market. Under his leadership, Breitling has achieved impressive results in Asia, especially in Japan and Korea. Currently, the Chinese market is becoming a top priority for the brand’s next phase of significant expansion.

Challenges in the China Market 

— Adapting to a Highly Developed Digital Environment

House of Creed, CEO Sarah Rotheram

“The pace of digitization in the Chinese market far exceeds that of other countries, presenting us with a significant learning opportunity. We also plan to apply the experiences gained in China to other markets.”

“In fact, online transactions have been quite challenging for us because we do not yet have the capability for it. However, there is a significant competitive space in this field.”

In June 2023, French luxury giant Kering announced the all-cash acquisition of the British salon perfume brand House of Creed by its beauty division, Kering Beauté. This was Kering Beauté’s first acquisition since its establishment in February of the same year.

At the end of August, Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Creed, completed her first visit to China post-pandemic. During this time, she gave an exclusive interview to Luxeplace.com, sharing the history and unique assets of Creed, its focus on expanding in the Chinese market, and the fragrance preferences of Chinese consumers.

— Meeting Higher Consumer Expectations

Jaeger-LeCoultre, Global CEO Catherine Rénier

“The Chinese market is changing rapidly and continuously evolving and growing. In the luxury and fashion sectors, the Chinese market is always ahead, and the same goes for the watch industry. The public’s interest and expectations are high. We need to constantly meet those expectations, which is a challenge for us.”

In late August 2023, Catherine Rénier, Global CEO of the Swiss high-end watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre, gave an exclusive interview in Beijing to Luxeplace.com.

She shared the brand’s development focus in China in recent years.

CANALI, CEO Stefano Canali

“Chinese consumers were mostly interested in sportswear pieces of garments many years ago. Then they have changed, increasing their interest in whatever is not sportswear and casual wear. ”

“They are attracted by brands, but the brand is not enough anymore. They tend to buy for themselves rather than to buy to make themselves happy. Happiness comes from the brand they’re wearing but also comes from the quality of the stuff they’re wearing and the way they look while wearing that stuff.”

“Service-wise, they’re very interested in having high-quality service, and that’s the reason why we’re increasing the services in the most important stores we have in China.”

CANALI entered the Chinese market in the 1990s. In 2020, CANALI regained control of 10 stores in China from its franchise partners, strengthening the brand’s management in the Chinese market and demonstrating its long-term commitment.

CANALI has nearly 40 stores in mainland China. In 2021 and 2022, CANALI opened flagship stores on Tmall and JD.com platforms, respectively. In October 2022, CANALI’s Shanghai IFC Mall store reopened, showcasing a new store image to Chinese consumers.

In July of this year, Stefano Canali, the third generation heir of the CANALI family and the CEO of the brand, gave an exclusive interview to Luxeplace.com, sharing his insights into the menswear industry, the Chinese market, and future plans.

— Consumer Communication

McLaren, Asia Pacific and China Region Managing Director Paul Harris

“The most significant challenge lies in effectively communicating with consumers and conveying McLaren’s essence, origins, and historical background. It is crucial to tell and consistently reinforce the brand story.”

On January 1, 2022, Paul Harris joined McLaren Automotive. With over thirty years of experience in the luxury automotive field, Harris took McLaren into a new phase of development with the launch of the new Artura. He aimed to enhance McLaren’s brand influence, expand business growth opportunities, and promote new and used car businesses in the Asia Pacific and China regions.

In May last year, Harris made his first appearance in China in his new role, giving an interview to Luxeplace.com and sharing his insights into the Chinese automotive market.

| Image Credit: Luxe.CO

丨Reporter:Zuo Xiaoli

| Editor: Zhu Ruoyu