Luxury brands tap rich Chinese students in US
A visitor from China comes out after shopping at Tifany & Co jewellers in New York.
New York/Beijing - Anti-corruption drive hits sales of high-end goods in Beijing.
Sellers of Western luxury brands eager to capitalise on the new wealth of Chinese consumers are showering attention on mainland students in the United States, even as sales in China falter.
The strategy is paying off for some, such as the Los Angeles Beverly Centre mall, which sends buses to pick up Chinese families at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California at the beginning of the year, when parents drop off their children, and at graduation.
"We aren't just dabbling here," said Susan Vance, the Beverly Centre marketing and sponsorship director. The mall sponsors Chinese student groups with roughly 45,000 members in what she called one of its most successful marketing plans.
Chinese shoppers account for 31 per cent of the $273 billion global personal luxury goods market, according to Bain and Co, and the United States is the biggest market outside of Asia.
As economic growth in China has slowed and as Beijing's anti-corruption drive cuts into sales of high-end goods there, makers of luxury brands are trying to tap this key Chinese customer base when they reach US shores.
Students are snapping up Louis Vuitton and Gucci handbags, Tory Burch shoes, as well as fashions from Fendi, Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent, among others, according to recent interviews with student shoppers in New York.
It is not clear how much of overall luxury sales can be attributed to purchases by students, but some top brand makers clearly see the group as a financial force in its own right and as providing access to a much larger group of well-heeled shoppers - parents and family - making it an important new marketing channel.
Some 29 per cent of high net-worth parents in China who send their children abroad for primary school and college choose US institutions, according to the Hurun Report, which publishes an annual list of China's richest people.
California's tourism bureau found that a majority of visits from China corresponded with back-to-school and graduation and that friends and family visited them often. Australia's tourism agency found Chinese students in university are able to influence up to 14 trips from China during their years in school.
Chinese tourists and visitors have a long tradition of buying for friends and family to avoid taxes and fake goods. In Beijing, Fang Wen, whose daughter studies at Rice University in Houston, said she relies on her to bring back small goods, such as cosmetics, apparel and jewellery.
Companies selling top brands are recognising that influence and reaching out to students.
In New York, Prada lured students into stores by offering vouchers for leather luggage tags worth about $200, said Yun Chen, the president of the Chinese Artist Alliance of New York City, an umbrella for Chinese student groups at four of the city's top art schools.
Mulberry Group, a British handbag maker, set up a private sale with cocktails and desserts for students in the Chinese Artist Alliance at a store in Manhattan's SoHo district, inviting the first 100 buyers to a launch party for designer and model Cara Delevingne's handbag collaboration with the brand, Chen said. - Reuters
Chinese student Leyna Liu from Shanghai poses with a fake million dollar bill in front of the Federal Reserve building in Washington.