Purveyors of European luxury brands, anticipating the arrival of this important clientele, stand ready to embrace it, whether by offering guided tours, in Mandarin, of flagship showrooms; providing backstage access to couture runway shows; or engaging in a variety of other flourishes tailored for the Chinese tourist-shopper.
In catering to the Chinese shopper, some European makers of luxury goods seek to leverage their brands’ heritage and savoir-faire by conducting tours of their landmark European stores — or even setting up museums in them, as Vuitton has done with its “Espace Culturel” on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Others organize invitation-only demonstrations of the craftsmanship that goes into the products, which companies and analysts say holds a particular appeal for Chinese visitors.
A Chinese tourist who returns home with a memorable experience to share can be a powerful ambassador for a brand.
We are dealing with a demographic, not a geography, so we need to think in nongeographic terms. Some brands have 150 store locations in China alone, but their cash registers are in Europe and the United States.
Chinese consumers’ embrace of the Internet and social media platforms like Sina Weibo has also increased access to information about luxury goods abroad, allowing them to comparison shop before they even board a plane. Applications like Weixin let people share their foreign shopping experiences in real time, check prices and send photos as they weigh their purchases — or even take orders on behalf of friends back home.
Armed with these digital tools, a growing number of Chinese travelers, particularly younger ones, are forgoing the classic group tours and venturing abroad independently. That trend, with the ban on commission-subsidized tours, is driving more tourists to explore beyond the big European flagship stores in the fanciest districts.