Top luxury brands compete to tap China market

Updated: 2011-06-13 13:35
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TIANJIN -- Prominent luxury brands are scrambling to get a slice of the competitive Chinese market.

With a two-wheel drive specially designed for China's road conditions, an orange Lamborghini roadster was displayed at a luxury exhibition in the northern port city of Tianjin.

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The 2011 Tianjin International Luxury Exhibition was held from Friday to Sunday, right after the World Luxury Association (WLA) released its 2011 annual official report Thursday in Beijing.

According to the report, China is expected to replace Japan as the world's top consumer of luxury goods by 2012 with an expected luxury goods sales value of $14.6 billion due to China's growing demand and declining consumption in Japan.

The three-day exhibition in Tianjin showcased luxury cars, private yachts, precious jewelry, art collections and classical furniture.

Wang Weiguo, honorary president of the exhibition, said that luxury consumption is a life attitude.

"The exhibition builds a platform for the 80 exhibitors to know Tianjin, an emerging port city bordering Beijing," Wang said.

About 20 of the world's top luxury brands have entered Tianjin's market since 2007, including Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci, Cartier, Armani, Hermes, Ralph Lauren and Dior.

Boston Consulting Group has predicted that China will become the world's largest luxury market and more than 330 cities' standard of living will surpass today's Shanghai in the next ten years.

Meanwhile, about two thirds of the world's prominent luxury brands have started operations in China -- some opening shops during the global economic recession.

Louis Vuitton opened 27 shops in 22 Chinese cities in two years.

Volvo also aggressively expanded its dealer network to 98 outlets in 81 cities last year. Two new Volvo sales centers opened in Beijing within a week of each other in early October 2010, about two months after Zhejiang Province's Geely Holding Group Co. acquired the Swedish brand from US auto giant Ford for $1.5 billion in early August 2010.

Bentley, the famous British luxury carmaker, opened a sales center in Tianjin in November 2010, which became its 11th in China.

Wu Kaixi, a regional manager with an agent company of Carlo Pignatell, a luxury formalwear brand, said China's soaring luxury market is a driving force behind the increasing standard of living.

China's luxury goods sales value reached 10.7 billion U.S. dollars in a 13-month period from February 2010 to March 2011, according the WLA's report.

The report also said Chinese spent much more on luxury goods overseas, with $50 billion worth of luxury purchases solely in Europe last year.

"China's luxury market is still at the beginning stage as the consumers focus on the brand itself rather than the culture behind the brand," Wu said. "However, China's market has huge potential."