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Why luxury and premium British brands are prioritising the Chinese market

By Angela Gonzalez-Rodriguez

Mar. 26, 2021


In an interview with FashionUnited, Sandrine Zerbib, founder of Shanghai-based and China-focused brand management and digital agency Full Jet, talks about how even if the Chinese market was already vital for British or more generally European luxury and premium brands prior to the covid-19 crisis, it has gained even more prevalence.

China is currently the 2nd largest luxury marker in the world but is meant to be the first one by 2025, accounting for 41 percent of the total global market.

“Actually, China has been dominating the luxury market for a while already, but most of the purchases were made abroad,” highlights Zerbib. That radically changed in 2020, as luxury purchases were mostly made at home, in China, in stores and online. She points out that while the global luxury market was dropping by 23 percent, the China luxury market was increasing by 48 percent, taking Mainland China’s share from about 11 percent in 2019 to 20 percent in 2020. “These numbers alone make China a key focus for luxury brands,” notes Full Jet’s founder.

Young and loyal market: First luxury purchases in China are made at the age of 20

In addition, it is an exceptionally young market – first luxury purchases are in average made at the age of 20 and people less than 30 years-old contributed to 47 percent of all luxury purchases in China in 2020, according to data analysed by Statista.

Brands gaining and nurturing the loyalty of young consumers have a better chance at remaining relevant in today’s evolving marketplace. “It’s key for brands to gain this young consumer’s loyalty, as they represent the future,” affirms Zerbib, who adds that “they make China a real laboratory for most advanced go-to-market strategies and technologies. Indeed, the share of e-commerce in luxury purchases has gone from 12 percent in 2019 to 23 percent in 2020!”

Growing appetite for luxury digitalisation and innovation

Chinese young wealthy consumers can also be very demanding. That has been understood – and capitalised –by brands including Burberry, Alexander McQueen, and Ted Baker. Full Jet’s managing partner recalls how Burberry was one of the first brands to open a virtual store on Tmall Luxury Pavilion in 2014 or how it more recently partnered with Tencent (WeChat owner) to open a physical ‘social centre’ in Shenzhen, which completely blurs on and offline experiences. Their sales in China speak for themselves: 40 percent of Burberry’s global sales come from China. Following the digital path, Alexander Mc Queen joined Tmall Luxury Pavilion in 2019 and so did Dunhill in 2020, reminds Zerbib.

From Hi-Com, a localisation consultancy specialised in the Chinese market, agree with this vision, adding that Burberry is a household name for those who shop in high-end fashion.

“A polarization of luxury values can definitely be observed between China and the rest of the world. With extravagance being the key word for the former and sobriety for the latter, UK luxury and premium brands seem to be today, on the same page as Chinese consumers,” concludes Zerbib.