CHINA: Enters new era of luxury apparel cooldown - study
Luxury spending in mainland China has slowed, with similar expectations for growth forecast for 2014, according to figures from consulting firm Bain & Co.
The 2013 China Luxury Goods Market Study, presented in Shanghai this week, revealed a number of factors that have contributed to the cooling of the once "exuberant" luxury market.
The report notes that a "highly visible" government campaign encouraging frugality and focusing on corruption had a large impact on gifting - one of the major growth engines of the sector.
In particular, the campaign constrained the growth of luxury watches and men's categories. The latter has shifted from being a growth category in recent years to a "slightly declining category" in 2013, the study found.
Bain, however, also sees bright spots in China's domestic sales of some women's categories. Womenswear and shoes, the report reveals, are showing strong momentum, with growth rates for the year ranging from 8-10%. Much of this stems from women's increasing sophistication and influence, which has driven men's and women's share of luxury spending in China to equal levels in 2013.
"China's luxury market has quickly changed from land-grab to steady focus on consumer experience and ‘like for like' sales," said Bruno Lannes, a Bain partner in Greater China.
"The mindset among global brands here is changing from men's categories and accessories to women's categories and fashion. Brands are preparing for this major shift."
Nonetheless, the study identified four changes that are now adding complexity to China's domestic luxury. These include a declining number of new store openings by global brands, more complex consumer segments, a shift in marketing and sales channels, and a polarisation of the market at the highest and lowest ends of the luxury products spectrum.
As a result, Lannes believes brands now have to master "a broader set of management skills" in order to succeed in China now.
"There are three new imperatives coming from the increased sophistication of Chinese shoppers: changing focus to managing fashion lines, merchandising and inventory; tailoring customer strategies to multiple segments; and, training store staff to provide the best customer experience for these diverse and increasingly more sophisticated Chinese shoppers."
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