Former Managing Director at RIMOWA and Goyard
Clement has over 20 years of experience in the luxury goods industry in Asia. He joined Cartier as a Retail Manager in 1997 where he managed 12 boutiques and over 80 points of sales across APAC. Clement then joined Goyard, the luxury french brand, where he built the brand’s distribution network in Asia for 5 years. He then joined RIMOWA, the luxury luggage maker owned by LVMH, where he opened new locations and built out distribution with malls and boutiques across the region.Read moreView Profile Page
What are some of the key differences that you have found, between the Asian markets and the Western European markets, in terms of distributing luxury brands? In terms of the structure of the market, the way the consumers behave, or the way they purchase?
The major difference between Asia and the rest of the world is the speed. Number one, it’s speed. It goes a lot faster in Asia. By the nature of the contracts, most retail contracts in Asia are three years where, in the rest of the world, they tend to be longer. Also, there is a lot more development, in terms of the shopping mall and new retail locations. Therefore, you have a lot more opportunity to open new stores. Also the fact that technology moves a lot faster, in Asia.
I have to mention the fact that customers, obviously, are a lot more eager in Asia to discover and spend and consume. Nowadays, the Chinese and Asian customer – the Chinese and Japanese together – they represent a huge weight, in terms of behavior and buying of luxury goods. They crave luxury goods; they buy luxury goods and so on. They lead a social life and a leisure life, which is slightly different from the one in the West, where we spend maybe more, on holidays and countryside homes in the UK or France, for example. In the US, it’s a different story; they have a lot of toys and boats and cars and so on. But Asians tend to really enjoy buying luxury goods, for differentiation.
There are a lot of theories about why that’s and we’re not going to deep-dive into that today, but one that emerges is that this competition between this huge pool of people is so intense. When you compete for everything, you need to stand out. You need to stand out, all the time and being able to display your wealth, all the time, is one way to stand out, easily. That’s, I think, why the Chinese are such keen luxury goods customers. But also, if you ask me, I think historically, they always have been. I think, historically, the Chinese were always strong buyers of luxury goods. The luxury industry, in China, prior to the 1970’s, was really well developed. There were a lot of craftsmen, a lot of very exquisite porcelain which is valued today. The art of craftmanship developed for these customers, was already there. And it’s the same in Japan, to some extent.
I would say that Asia benefits from its economic development. So the speed of change in the market and the fact that the population is keener on buying luxury goods. That’s the major difference with a more conservative society, probably, than in the West, where things are a lot slower.
Now, if you look at customers buying patterns because, at the end of the day, we sell products, no matter what, the best seller tends to be best seller worldwide. The same watch tends to sell extremely well in the US, in Europe and in Asia. The same bag, for Goyard, for example, is the same success story around the world. It shows that customer’s buying patterns are similar. When you have a good product, it’s going to work everywhere, which is reassuring, by the way.