Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

A vet­eran of the lux­ury re­tail in­dus­try, Clau­dia Shaw took a po­si­tion with Chanel’s se­nior team in Asia in 1996 and has been with the com­pany ever since. Her cur­rent po­si­tion as am­bas­sador and re­gional ad­viser in­volves over­see­ing buy­ing for the en­tire Asia-pa­cific re­gion, host­ing in­store events and styling for Chanel’s clients, in­clud­ing some of the big­gest VIPS in Asia.

The shop­per de­mo­graphic has shifted over the past 20 years from Ja­panese to main­land Chi­nese tourists.

The Ja­panese used to come be­cause the prices were much more at­trac­tive. They shopped dif­fer­ently from the Chi­nese, though. In gen­eral, the Ja­panese are less gre­gar­i­ous, less os­ten­ta­tious. With the change in the Ja­panese econ­omy, the Ja­panese stopped trav­el­ling and spend­ing as they had. Mean­while, the in­tro­duc­tion of the In­di­vid­ual Visit Scheme in 2003 marked the be­gin­ning of a decade of huge growth in main­land Chi­nese vis­its to Hong Kong. Be­fore that scheme came into ef­fect, a lit­tle over 7 mil­lion main­land Chi­nese vis­ited Hong Kong each year. Ten years later that num­ber had grown to 44 mil­lion. For the lux­ury stores, this meant main­land Chi­nese sud­denly made up 70 per cent of your tourist clien­tele.

The anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign hit ev­ery lux­ury brand in Hong Kong re­ally hard.

It was es­pe­cially bad for watches and jew­ellery, but every­body has been hit. The ef­fects of that cam­paign com­bined with pric­ing prob­lems greatly re­duced the num­bers of main­land Chi­nese shop­pers vis­it­ing Hong Kong. Be­fore we har­monised our prices at Chanel, we would see maybe 30 to 50 per cent dif­fer­ence in the prices be­tween Paris and Asia due to cur­rency and tax dif­fer­ences, and most brands ex­pe­ri­enced the same prob­lem.

For me, per­son­ally, I think the crack­down on cor­rup­tion was a great thing.

I al­ways said it was not sus­tain­able to have dou­ble-digit growth ev­ery year. There was al­ways go­ing to be a point at which it would level off or maybe dip. It had to hap­pen. It was just ridicu­lous, con­spic­u­ous spend­ing. That said, while the num­bers may have de­clined slightly, I be­lieve we will al­ways have main­land tourist shop­pers. Once the res­i­dents from the first-tier cities stop com­ing—be­cause they have been a few times and want to try some­where more ad­ven­tur­ous—it moves to the se­cond tier and then the third. There will be an on­go­ing in­flux.

There’s been a mas­sive ex­pan­sion of stores for high-end brands.

Twenty years ago at Chanel we had maybe four shops, and now we’ve got 10 or 11, in­clud­ing Ma­cau. The rate of ac­cel­er­a­tion Hong Kong has seen on that front is un­usual. Every­body jumped on the band­wagon when busi­ness was boom­ing. In the past two years some brands have been forced to close non-per­form­ing stores. I think the les­son is that any busi­ness that re­lies so heav­ily on tourists for in­come is at risk.

The rise of malls has made shop­ping bor­ing.

We didn’t have so many in the past. We didn’t have IFC, Pa­cific Place, nor Land­mark as it is now. Be­fore the han­dover, the larger stores were de­part­ment stores, and most of them were Ja­panese. That was a huge phe­nom­e­non in the ’80s—daimaru, Sogo, Mat­suza­kaya, Seibu. Then those busi­nesses went from boom to bust in the early ’90s—in part, I think, due to the Asian fi­nan­cial cri­sis—and we be­gan to tran­si­tion to Us-style malls. The mix of brands in them is al­ways the same, give or take a few. Be­fore the malls there was a more eclec­tic mix of bou­tiques. Some­one sell­ing hi-fi equip­ment would sit next to some­one sell­ing sil­ver. It would be a nice mix­ture of mer­chan­dise that wasn’t all fash­ion, jew­ellery and watches. It used to be eas­ier to find a nice book­store, or a shop sell­ing lovely cu­rios. Now it’s so repet­i­tive and ho­mogenised.

I love what they’ve done with Soho.

I think it’s im­por­tant that we don’t negate our her­itage—which we tend to do—but I think we could do more to en­cour­age lo­cal tal­ent, whether it’s fash­ion or food or crafts, with af­ford­able rents for stu­dios and stores. As a shop­ping des­ti­na­tion, we are not as ex­cit­ing as Tokyo or Seoul be­cause cre­ative peo­ple who want to open a lit­tle shop here can’t.

There’s been a rise of ac­tivewear stores.

They’re so much more a part of life these days as it’s be­come a trend for peo­ple to wear gym gear all day. It’s that hor­ri­ble life­style trend we have adopted from Amer­ica, hence these sports­wear brands that have a lot of money— Adi­das, Nike and so on—have ex­panded their foot­print.

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