Field Trip to Hong Kong: A Positive Outlook for the Luxury Market

by Erin Thibodeau, Global MBA Ambassador 2017-2018, Luxury Brand Management major

A year ago the story was different. Economic challenges exasperated by a slowdown in tourism affected the travel retail market and purchase willingness of consumers, creating a perfect storm of depression for the luxury market in Hong Kong. 

But a positive outlook on travel and strong economic prospects have injected the market with an appetite for luxury once more, a fact that was repeated by the companies with whom we met during our field trip to Hong Kong. Repeated themes included educating clients on brand DNA and storytelling, knowing and catering to your local market, as well as being innovative in the retail and tech sphere for this market.

Our conferences kicked off with Tiffany & Co who discussed their strong efforts in brand building and education in Asia. This was a sentiment seconded by members of Chanel’s Asia-Pacific team who spoke about the importance of brand DNA and being uncompromising in supporting this DNA through a strong and consistent global image. 

The day concluded with an inspiring and informative afternoon session with Audemars Piguet. During the visit, we learned about Audemars Piguet’s commitment to excellence and how they are exploring new ideas around retail such as their “AP House” apartment concept in Hong Kong. This session was a perfect primer for our trip to Switzerland where we would visit the AP Maison, museum, and factory (post to come!).

Wednesday began with a conference with the L'Oréal Luxe Travel Retail Division who stressed the importance of design to the client experience and the challenges of developing fragrances and cosmetics in a highly sophisticated market. The day concluded with our first introduction to the wines and spirits industry with a presentation from Moët Hennessy.

As it was the first time in Hong Kong for many in our class, some of us took Wednesday night to take in the horse races, a common outing in Hong Kong, while others went to dinner or explored the city, enjoying the tropical climate and bustling city. 

Thursday morning found us fresh and back in the conference centre for a talk by a representative from LVMH, during which we learnt more about what a career in LVMH and in Asia is like, as well as the importance of truly understanding your client and of immersing yourself in the culture in which you’re working.

Next was a focus on digital and building brand desirability with Estée Lauder and finally a meeting with Salvatore Ferragamo where we were graciously invited to join them at their boutique for a sneak peek at a spring event.

Of course, one of the highlights of Hong Kong is their amazing retail landscape, providing endless opportunities for research, exploration, and discovery for our class. This was augmented by a visit to the DFS headquarters in Kowloon where we were able to spend the morning getting to know the DFS organization and ethos, and tour their T Galleria Tsim Sha Tsui. Our week finished with an alumni event, allowing the class to connect with alumni now working in Hong Kong and get an insight into their journey after the program as well as make new connections.

The luxury industry is currently highly focused on the Chinese client, who have a high purchase power and who are travelling more intensely than ever. But, as in Dubai, we heard often about the importance of not neglecting your home market and the importance of developing a local strategy within a global DNA.

You can bet that attracting the Chinese client will continue to be top of mind for luxury brands; however, having fun with new digital tools and speaking to people on a micro-level to increase levels of personalization between brand and client will grow to become even more important as the race for relevance continues.

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