BEIJING - A friend of Ou Yangkun, the head of the Chinese branch of the World Luxury Association, asked the business executive to help him buy several Hermes brand belt buckles while he was in Beijing. The belt buckles in question are diamond-studded and go by the name “Starry.” They retail for about $45,000 a piece. In some countries you can buy a light aircraft loaded with illegal goods for that sort of money. And yet when Mr. Yangkum tried to make the purchase, he was told by the shop that they were all sold out. The shelf was bare.
China’s ever-active shopping-maven micro-bloggers have been complaining, meanwhile, that they cannot find a single Prada “Saffiano” series handbag in any of the brand’s three stores in Beijing. In fact, all of the classic and popular items at luxury goods shops in the capital face the same problem. They’ve all been sold.
For most Chinese cities, the peak season for sales runs between Christmas and the Chinese New Year. Not so in Beijing. There, sales for top luxury brands tend to soar in March. One distributor of a top Italian brand estimates that monthly revenue literally doubles in March.
“When I first came to China, I never understood why so often you see two men coming to the shop together,” one sales manager told the Economic Observer. “But I soon found out. It’s because one of them is there to buy the stuff while the other is there just to pay for it.”
One of the characteristics of these March buyers is that they frequently pose the question: “What do you recommend?” The sales clerks are well briefed as to how to cater to these special purchasers.
“In general, these customers don’t like to be proposed merchandise that’s too eye-catching, but most adore the very expensive watches,” said one particularly experienced saleswoman. Gucci handbags, Hermes scarves and Montblanc pens are also popular items. One suspects men are buying them as gifts for the ladies.
“Our survey focused on this special peak season that only exists in Beijing,” the Italian distributor said. “It demonstrates that many of these purchases are meant as gifts.”
According to “The 2011 Study of the Chinese Luxury Goods Market” conducted and published last December by Bain & Company, a strategic consulting firm, Chinese consumers spent roughly $33 billion on luxury goods in 2011. Roughly 30% of those purchases were gifts.
It is probably a total coincidence, but March is also the moment when the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Consultative Congress have their meetings in Beijing.
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Photo - SoniaT360
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations