China / Society

Brands chase China's high-end lingerie market

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-07-26 08:45

Cosmo Lady, a Chinese firm that has focused on the mass market, selling bras from 50 yuan ($7.50), last year bought Ordifen to increase its presence in the luxury market.

"We would like to gradually step into the high-end market," said Peter Lam, Cosmo Lady's assistant chief financial officer.

Gao Qiannan, a 22-year-old Shandong student who says she spends upwards of 1,500 yuan a year on lingerie, doesn't think there's a big difference between Chinese and foreign brands.

"If I can buy a domestic brand, I will, but if I particularly like the international brand's style, I'll get that," she said.

The international brands say they don't offer products specifically for the Chinese market, though La Perla notes that some colours - red and baby pink - sell far better in Asia than in Europe or the United States. The Italian brand has also used Chinese supermodel Liu Wen in its campaigns.

Japanese and South Korean brands are also growing in popularity in China.

Yin Huijuan, 23, who spends 800 yuan ($120) on lingerie every three months, said she prefers Japanese brands such as Wacoal and Narue. "I feel foreign brands' style is more detailed and diversified, these are areas where domestic brands fall short," she said.

Consumer caution, online competition

Even in the lingerie market, though, there are bumps.

Cosmo Lady, which has 8,600 outlets including Ordifen's 550 China stores, saw robust growth in its mass market sales last year, but has warned about its profits for the first half of this year, citing China's slowing economic growth, consumer caution and competing online sales.

Hong Kong-listed Embry Holdings, which owns the Embry Form lingerie brand, said its group retail sales slipped by nearly a fifth in April-June on tougher competition and the economy.

Despite those bumps, the lingerie sector retains a strong appeal, said Eugene Mak, an analyst at China Merchant Securities in Hong Kong, and firms like Cosmo Lady are still outperforming other apparel retailers.

He predicts the market will hit a consolidation phase at some time. "It's a very young market, but in the near-term it's going to be messy," he said.

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