May 17, 2012

The Lure of the East

As Proctor & Gamble Co. relocates its beauty headquarters and retailers like J. Crew and Forever 21, among may others continue to expand overseas to Asia, we have only begun to understand the potential of the Eastern world. With China a major established power player in the global market, it’s not surprising that more and more companies are moving into Asian markets and tailoring their marketing initiatives and products in the process. However, China’s presence isn’t just taking over the offline world, but influencing online platforms as well and will soon become the largest online retail market in the virtual universe. With more than 500 million online users and a population of 1.3 billion people, China is one of the fastest growing countries impacting everything from e-commerce to luxury goods.

photo via Reuters

One company who firmly believes in China's e-commerce capabilities is nonetheless the world's largest online retailer, Amazon. With a long-term mentality, the retailer is ready to take an initial hit by tapping into the Chinese market for hopes of striking it big as one of the top three e-commerce retailers. Not only does Amazon have major competition in China, but the challenge of government censorship, outdated broswers, and website loading delays. However, despite intimidations to sell via the internet as well as a major threat of high-end knock-off merchandise, many companies are benefiting from selling on their e-commerce sites like and Glamour Sales, which Neiman Marcus Group recently invested a partial stake in to help establish itself as an international brand. Since the e-luxury market is still very much in the introductory stages, it will be interesting see how the platform develops and is utilized by both Eastern and Western companies.

photo via, a blog featuring everything handbags, is launching a Chinese edition that will not only be published in both simplified and traditional characters, but will offer daily posts tailored to the Chinese market in addition to the translated American versions., who in November translated its entire site and email initiatives into Mandarin, is now taking things one step further by offering fashion and shopping support to its Chinese-speaking customers via email, phone, and live chats. And then there's Bomoda, a new website which follows a "first-comes-content-then-comes-commerce" approach to inform its users about what is going on in the fashion capitals of New York, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo and will eventually offer an e-commerce component but beyond the typically established luxury labels. The key to all of these websites you ask? Well, they offer cool and hip Western luxury brands into the Eastern world like Proenza Schouler, Thakoon, Alexander McQueen, etc through innovative online platforms.

video via CNBC

Speaking of luxury, there has been a major boom in high-end designer products over the past few years, especially in Asia. From cars to handbags to shoes, the Asian market is spending money, more than 20% of global luxury consumption to be precise. According to CNBC, the average Chinese millionaire is 39 years old and about one-third of them are women! Not to mention, due to high import tariffs, Chinese tourists spend more than any other tourist while visiting New York, making their average spending equate to about $3,297 per person, per visit! As increased access and changing attitudes of consumers shifts to an appreciation for longevity and well made goods versus price, the luxury market will continue to grow and more companies will continue to tap into China to meet the growing demand.

photo via My Retail Media

However, with this increased buying power, there's an entire other side to the business as Chinese firms are nonetheless, but buying out Western brands and it seems they are looking to good ol' England to do so. YGM Trading, a Hong Kong based company which already owns Guy Laroche, has recently acquired the remaining part of the British label, Aquascutum. Meanwhile, Gieves & Hawkes, the Savile Row tailor, is being purchased by Trinity Limited, part of Li & Fung Group, which just partnered with Vena Cava.
  slideshow via Digital Luxury GroupAs China's online shopping behavior continues to develop and exceed expectations (with 700 million Internet users expected by 2015), increased accessibility to Western luxury merchandise expands, and more companies update their websites to include Chinese translations and target specific products, we will see a greater shift in Western companies catering to this demanding market in order to survive and evolve in the modern world. Who will be the latest to tap into the Chinese market and more importantly, which Western companies will be picked up by Asian firms next? We'll be waiting to see...

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