Connexions – A Closer Look on “E-Retail: Luxury Gets Going… Finally!” by Patrice Nordey

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According to a study done by KPMG, 72% of Chinese tourists traveling abroad claim to have bought luxury goods. These purchases represent a significant proportion of their total expenditure (over 40%) with the most popular products of choice as cosmetics, watches and handbags. The prices of these products bought abroad are 20 to 30% cheaper than in China, and account for half of China’s luxury market today.

However, with the rapid development of online shopping in the Middle Kingdom (159 billion Euros at end 2012), we see pure Internet players taking advantage of this lucrative market in the recent years. Startups such as 5lux.com, Ihaveu.com, Shangpin or Xiu.com (87 million turnover in 2012) buy directly from distributors – rarely trademarks – and short all intermediaries to offer prices 20-50% lower than those charged by official channels shops.

Some of these actors, such as Secoo.com, even sell second hand luxury goods while ensuring the authenticity and condition of the product through strict certifications.

To counter these new discount models – which have tremendously opened consumers’ appetite for the “digital luxury” – premium and high end brands fuss to offer their online distribution model to recreate the conditions of an experience luxury with exclusivity, personalization and value-added services.

Upscale cosmetics brands were the first to launch, for example Lancome or the specialized retailer Sephora in 2006. Marni, Armani, Bally, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander Wang and the Moncler brands have also launched in 2012 under the auspices of the Italian Yoox platform. More recently, Hugo Boss and Coach launched their e-commerce with a narrow range of products. Department stores such as Marks & Spencers and Lane Crawford also accelerated the development of their Internet offerings for their wealthy clients in China and Hong Kong.

Estimated at 11.1 billion RMB in 2011, the e-luxury market in China jumped by 71% in 2012 with 18.9 billion RMB of online spending. It is expected to exceed 45 billion RMB by 2015 according to iResearch and thus, capturing 10% of the first luxury market in the world.