Jacqueline Lam sells Western fashions to Chinese shoppers, via her website MiHaiBao. What may come as a surprise to anyone who has seen the crowds of Chinese tourists getting into the Louis Vuitton section at Galeries Lafayette (巴黎老佛爷百货公司) in Paris is that she does not focus entirely on top-end (高端的) brands.
The 28-year-old Chinese-born Danish citizen, who says she developed a keen sense of what Chinese shoppers want to buy abroad after years of being bothered by friends and relatives to bring “everything from toilet seats to cookies” back from Europe, is selling her customers on the idea of discovering new designers.
MiHaiBao does stock Moschino and Christian Louboutin, but its main focus is relatively undiscovered brands, such as Italian knitwear group Boboutic, whose brightly colored pieces sell for less than ￡1,000. MiHaiBao, a name which translates as “secret, overseas treasure,” promises on its website that customers will “hit on something new.”
Lam has made use of a trend that could really shake up how providers of luxury experiences cater to wealthy Chinese. This market used to be about easily recognizable displays of wealth. Now, however, the richest Chinese consumers do not want to show they have money but that they have good taste and that they are individuals. They are becoming much harder to sell to.
Federica Levato, a partner at consultancy Bain & Co. (贝恩顾问公司), has seen the same trend. She says that while much of Chinese shopping in Europe is price-driven, “what we have seen in Europe in perhaps the last 18 months is a rapid growth of the sophistication of the Chinese customer.” These shoppers are looking, she explains, “for the less showy and more sophisticated items, with an intrinsic (内在的) value, not only a nice logo.” They want “a unique and personal buying experience.”
“A crucial issue for many of the large established luxury brands is how to stay relevant (与时俱进) in today’s consumer environment,” said Bain & Co.’s most recent report on Chinese luxury spending. “In China, luxury brands may have to move downmarket (面向低层次市场), to attract consumers who are still fascinated with brands.”