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2011-11-1 08:58

小艾摘要: When Sony introduced the Walkman in 1979 they gave it away for free to a handful of influential tastemakers─positioning it as a must-have item for a style conscious public. Some luxury brands in Chin ...
When Sony introduced the Walkman in 1979 they gave it away for free to a handful of influential tastemakers─positioning it as a must-have item for a style conscious public. Some luxury brands in China appear to be following the reverse strategy.

Some of the best customers of luxury brands in China─gift-giving entrepreneurs and corrupt officials─might also turn out to be their worst enemies. Corruption is a fact of life on the mainland. China comes in 78th in Transparency International's corruption index, equal ranked with such luminaries of clean governance as Colombia. With expensive gifts a routine channel for corruption, the luxury sector owes a part of its explosive growth to the dark side of China's rise.

That could be a problem. First up, moves by the government to stamp out corruption could have an outsize impact on the sector. In May this year, the State Council clamped down on the use of gift cards which are often used to bribe public officials. New regulations require registration of the real names of giver and receiver for cards over 1,000 yuan ($157), and cap the total value of a gift card at 5,000 yuan. Aaron Fischer, an expert on the consumer sector at CLSA, says gift cards make up around 20% of department store sales. A clamp down could cut into sales, including for luxury brands.

Even if it doesn't, being the threads of choice for corrupt officials and nouveau riche coal barons can hardly be good news for brand equity. Abercrombie & Fitch attracted headlines in the U.S. this August by offering to pay cast members of Jersey Shore to stop wearing their clothes, citing the threat to their 'aspirational' brand image. Luxury brands in China have not made similar efforts to disentangle themselves from clients that could dilute their brand equity.

That might not be a disaster. Luxury firms have experience at keeping sophisticated customers happy at the same time as they welcome newly minted millionaires. Radha Chadha, an expert in luxury brands at Chadha Strategy Consulting, notes firms like LVMH manage a big family of brands. Rich shoppers turned off by the overexposure of certain monogrammed bags can graduate onto other, more exclusive parts of the family.

The sheer size and lightning growth of the Chinese market might outweigh all other concerns. Hurun Research says 960,000 individuals each command more than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) in wealth, with 85,000 joining their ranks in the last year.

But rapid growth of the China market brings its own challenges. Sony's Walkman brand retained its cool till the end of the 1990s. Luxury firms that choose the first wave of Chinese millionaires as their brand ambassadors might find they go out of fashion a lot faster than that.


在中国,某些奢侈品牌最优秀的客户(送礼的企业家和腐败的官员)可能成为这些品牌最大的敌人。在中国内地,腐败是你不得不接受的现实。在透明国际(Transparency International)编制的腐败指数上,中国列78位,和哥伦比亚等出名的“廉洁”政府排在一个等级。随着昂贵礼品成为行贿的常见手段,奢侈品行业的爆炸式增长也部分受益于中国崛起的阴暗面。

这可能成为一个问题。首先,中国政府打击腐败的举措可能会对奢侈品业造成巨大影响。今年5月,国务院出台措施治理常被用于行贿官员的购物卡(即“商业预付卡”)。新规要求面值超过1,000元的购物卡必须建立购卡实名登记制度,记名商业预付卡面值不超过5,000元。里昂证券(CLSA)消费部门专家费舍尔(Aaron Fischer)说,购物卡在百货商店的销售额中约占20%的比例。政府规范购物卡的相关举措会对包括奢侈品牌在内的众多商家的销售额造成影响。

就算这不会影响销售额,但成为贪官和煤窑主等暴发户的选择对于奢侈品的品牌资产来说却并非一个好消息。今年8月,休闲服饰零售商Abercrombie & Fitch登上美国报纸头条,因为该公司付钱给真人秀节目《泽西海岸》(Jersey Shore)的剧组演员,要求他们不再穿着Abercrombie & Fitch的衣服,声称这有损该公司的品牌形象,可能令其目标客户远离该公司的商品。但在中国,奢侈品牌却没有推出类似举措,将自己和那些可能稀释品牌资产的客户划清界限。

这或许也并非一场灾难。奢侈品公司很有经验,他们能在让精明的顾客开心的同时,又吸引到百万富豪新贵。咨询公司Chadha Strategy Consulting的奢侈品牌专家查达(Radha Chadha)指出,像LVMH这样的公司管理着一众子品牌。不再对过于常见的印有字母图案的提包感兴趣的富裕消费者可以“升级”到那些更为小众且高档的品牌。

单纯是中国市场的规模以及快速增长的速度就可能超过所有其它担忧。胡润百富(Hurun Research)说,在中国,个人可支配财富超过1,000万元的个人就有96万。单是去年这一“队伍”就新增了8.5万人。


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