Aug 02 2012
During the Hainan Rendez Vous where Chinese elite and money meet, Zhenji interviewed 500 participants on their expectations vis-a-vis European luxury brands, when they travel to Europe. The study was carried out with clients of a VIP travel agency, who were looking for customised travel plans to Europe. 65 % of respondents were women, demonstrating their dominant role in travel planning within the Chinese couple. Half of the interviewees resort to using a concierge or VIP travel agent to organize their trip and help them with visas. Many also look to add some tourism to their business trips.
We asked them three questions:
What do you want to do during your trip ?
What brands do you want to look for ?
What are your expectations vis-a-vis these brands ?
The discussion was carried out in an open format around these three questions, with additional questions asked to qualify the answers.
- Shopping is always a key part of the trip and whoever comes to Europe, for work or for leasure, will make sure significant time is set aside for this. Shopping should not be at the large department stores – “that’s for the middle class, we are not concerned, we prefer the service and choice available in the boutiques”.
- Expectations vis-a-vis the brands are very high and the wealthy Chinese have a hard time accepting that they cannot get tickets to quarterly fashion shows in the main European capitals.
- The three brands which the VIP want to meet are always the same – here the Chinese are not very imaginative : they want to visit Hermes for an unlimited supply of Birkin bags, shop at Chanel and visit the mythical apartments of Coco Chanel in the rue Cambon, or go to Louis Vuitton and buy three bags of the same type, because “it’s not expensive and Vuitton bags make good gifts”
- VIPs are also looking for discount prices, even if prices are already low in Europe compared to China. The VAT refund procedure (currently approximately 12% in France), which they don’t fully understand and think is a special discount for foreign buyers provided by the brands, is in this respect perceived very positively.
- After investigating the VIPs’ interest in visiting manufacturing sites or benefiting from in-store explanations by a “Brand expert”, it was apparent that the favored proposal was the in-store presentation – “it takes less time, and we can quickly return to shopping”
- Men very often hope to meet the brand managers to do business. The “business” theme is recurrent and the Chinese find it difficult to understand the highly selective distribution strategy of the brands. Nearly every VIP will recommend a store or shopping center where they would like the brand to be distributed. This is particularly true of real estate magnates who want to combine their business acumen with the pleasure of shopping. They will not hesitate to ask for a meeting with the President of the French Republic or with such and such minister to obtain openings for their business.
- Finally, the Chinese must absolutely be able to take pictures and put them on their weibos in order to share their trip instantaneously with their friends. It is what is called “saving face” in China.
What is extremely clear is that the very rich Chinese want to be treated in France similarly to the wealthy families of the Persian Gulf. They view themselves as coming from the leading economic power, as part of the largest global fortunes, and therefore want to be treated as such . It is a question of “saving face” …