2011年12月22日 07:19 AM
Luxury shoppers travel to UK for bargains
By Claer Barrett Retail Correspondent
On a chilly Friday in December, one might expect that designer outlet centre Bicester Village in Oxfordshire would be full of Christmas shoppers. However, the dominant group of customers snapping up discounted Burberry, Gucci and Prada products are Chinese university students – often accompanied by their parents – splurging on gifts to take home for the lunar new year.
“The price is what we like,” says Zhing Xingzi, 33, from Beijing who is studying international relations at Nottingham University. Here with three female Chinese friends, who are trying on shoes in the Gucci outlet, he stands watch over their day's haul – 20 bags bearing the brands of Burberry, Prada, Ugg and Juicy Couture. “In China, just a few people can do this, not everyone,” he says, referring to the country's high sales taxes on luxury goods. “But the desire for brands is there, and we would buy more in China if it was at this price.”
The changing appetites of Asian shoppers have driven share prices of luxury groups up and down during the course of 2011. Concern that the devastating earthquake that hit Japan – one of the most important markets for luxury goods – in March would stall demand for top brands was cushioned by burgeoning demand from newly affluent Chinese consumers. However, over the summer, fears of a slowdown in China's economy wiped as much as 25 per cent off the share prices of luxury groups, including Burberry, which is expanding on the mainland.
Angela Ahrendts, Burberry's chief executive, has coined the term “Travelling Luxury Consumer” or TLC to describe its key customer group, arguing this is a more powerful force than the Chinese market alone, which now accounts for over 10 per cent of Burberry's sales.
“When Chinese consumers travel, they spend six times more than when they stay at home,” she explains. “Saying 'I bought this in London' adds further cachet.” For this reason, Burberry has sunk £20m into upgrading its London flagship stores, with Regent Street on target to complete “just in time for the Olympics” next year.
Other London purveyors of luxury are also feeling flush. High spending foreign tourists have powered a 32 per cent boost in post-tax annual profits at upmarket London department store Harvey Nichols, which rose to £7.25m in the year to April, according to documents filed in Companies House on Friday.
Harrods, its larger Knightsbridge neighbour, broke through the £1bn sales barrier in 2011, posting a 39 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £108m and reporting that the Chinese were its top-spending international visitors, blowing an average of £3,500 a visit.
The Chinese connoisseur who spends £25,000 on vintage wine might grab the headlines, but the majority of shoppers are of much smaller means. This helps explains the draw of Bicester, which boasts the only train station in the UK to have signs translated into Mandarin and Arabic, and is now the UK's third-biggest tourist shopping destination after Harrods and Selfridges.
Its owner, the outlet specialist Value Retail Group, says visitor numbers will top 5.5m this year, with two-thirds of shoppers coming from outside the UK, and 40 per cent from outside of the EU.
Crystal Zhang, a 23-year-old from Shanxi Province, is studying cross-cultural communication at Newcastle University, and has brought her mother and aunt on a shopping trip. “It's their first time in the UK,” she says, as they excitedly search through rails of discounted Burberry trenchcoats, clutching flasks of tea. “We haven't bought anything yet, we will have a good look first. We don't have unlimited money.”
Korean national Yung Kyoo Kim, 34, has just graduated from London Metropolitan University. “My parents came over for my graduation, but really, I think they wanted to go shopping,” he says, nodding to his mother, who is proudly carrying two bags of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.
“Tourists want the authentic product, but importantly, the authentic luxury experience,” says Scott Malkin, chairman of Value Retail, referring to Bicester's well-ordered stores, armies of shop assistants and the “little touches”, which include cushions on outdoor seating .
Stating that levels of tourist shoppers are “consistent” across Value Retail's nine European outlet villages, he recalls that Japanese shoppers were “pouring into” outlet villages in the US in the 1980s and 1990s, arguing a “similar logic” applies to China, where it plans to open an outlet village in Suzhou in 2013.
“We see 4m Chinese visitors a year in our European centres, but estimate there are up to 200m aspirational shoppers in China, and many of those could never visit us otherwise,” he says.
As the village will be entirely stocked by surplus luxury products from the region's growing numbers of stores, one might question the Chinese expansion plans of luxury groups. “Our experience is that it drives more footfall into our international stores,” says Godfrey Davis, chairman of Mulberry, the luxury English retailer, which is in the process of doubling its Asian store portfolio. “The travelling luxury consumer has always existed, and is a very important part of the market. But familiarity and desire for the brand is what breeds consumption .”
“我們中意的是這裡的價格。”今年33歲的章行自（音譯）表示，他來自北京，目前在諾丁漢大學(Nottingham University)攻讀國際關係。與他同行的三位女性朋友也是中國人，她們在古馳折扣店裡試鞋子，他則在一邊看著她們這一天的戰果：20大包的博柏利、普拉達、Ugg和橘滋(Juicy Couture)。 “在中國，只有少數人會這麼購物，不是所有人。”他指的是中國對奢侈品徵收高額消費稅這件事。 “但人們都渴望擁有名牌，如果在中國也是這樣的價錢，我們會多買一些。”
博柏利首席執行官安吉拉•阿倫茨(Angela Ahrendts)首創“奢侈品旅遊消費者”(Travelling Luxury Consumer)這個概念，用於形容該集團的關鍵消費者群體。她認為，這個群體的力量比中國市場更可觀，後者如今在博柏利總銷售額中占到10%以上。
倫敦其他奢侈品商家也備感歡欣。根據上週五提交英國公司註冊處(Companies House)的材料，拜大手大腳花錢的外國旅遊者所賜，在截至4月的一年裡，倫敦高檔百貨公司哈維•尼克斯(Harvey Nichols)的稅前利潤大幅增長32%，達725萬英鎊。
來自山西的克里斯特爾•張(Crystal Zhang)今年23歲，在紐卡斯爾大學(Newcastle University)攻讀跨文化交流專業。她讓她母親和姨媽一起來英國購物旅遊。 “她們第一次來英國。”克里斯特爾表示，這時她們正興奮地穿梭在博柏利折扣風衣的櫃檯前，手裡緊抓著水壺。 “我們還什麼都沒買呢，我們要先好好看一下，我們的錢有限。”
韓國人金英奎（音譯）今年34歲，剛從倫敦城市大學(London Metropolitan University)畢業。 “我父母來參加我的畢業典禮，但我想他們其實是想來購物。”他沖他媽媽點了點頭，他媽媽正得意地提著兩袋菲拉格慕(Salvatore Ferragamo)的鞋子。
“旅遊者想買到正品，但更想獲得真正的奢侈體驗。”Value Retail董事長斯科特•馬爾金(Scott Malkin)表示，他提到了購物村里秩序井然的商店、成群的店員，以及各種“細緻體貼”的服務，比如店門外座椅上還鋪著墊子。
馬爾金表示，通觀Value Retail在歐洲的9個名牌折扣店購物村，所有旅遊購物者的水平都是“一致的”。他回憶到，在上世紀八、九十年代，日本消費者“蜂擁進入”美國的名牌折扣店購物中心。在他看來，中國也會出現“類似情形”。 Value Retail計劃2013年在蘇州開一家名牌折扣店購物中心。
由於新購物中心的商品將全部來自該地區越來越多的名牌商店，全部是積壓的商品，人們可能會懷疑奢侈品集團在中國的擴張計劃。 “根據我們的經驗，這麼做會促使更多人走進我們的國際商店。”英國奢侈品零售商瑪百莉(Mulberry)董事長戈弗雷•戴維斯(Godfrey Davis)表示。瑪百莉正計劃將亞洲門店數量增加一倍。 “奢侈品旅遊消費者從來都有，也是這個市場的重要組成部分。但是，對品牌的熟悉感和渴望才能促成消費。”