It’s no secret that China’s online shopping market has huge potential. Armani and Marni are just two of the brands that have recently opened e-commerce sites on the mainland (both are powered by Yoox), with many others set to follow. That being said, it’s still uncertain whether the Chinese will become accustomed to shopping online for luxury goods.
First and foremost, they love the prestige that comes with buying something overseas, especially here in Hong Kong. There is also the question of authenticity which has haunted luxury brands since the beginning (although this is becoming less of a challenge as brands open stores in second and third tier cities). And with brands now extending their network to fourth tier cities, fewer customers will have to go online to get want they want.
The biggest obstacle to date is price. Chinese luxury tax means that designer goods on the mainland are around 20 to 40 per cent more expensive than in other Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Why buy domestically when you can cross the border and get the same item for a better price?
It’s perhaps with this in mind that Hong Kong retailers are eager to launch online shopping sites. They can deliver quickly to the mainland, offer better prices and don’t encounter the same customs problems that international online retailers would (most packages are delivered by a local courier).
Joyce, which is known for its unique edit of emerging and luxury designers, opened its e-commerce site this month. While the offerings are limited – each month they will launch a different capsule collection designed exclusively for them by brands such as Mastermind Japan and Mihara Yasuhiro – they are set to expand. Although no official announcement has been made, Lane Crawford is also working on an extensive site that insiders say will be similar to Net-a-Porter in terms of selection (they’ve also hired ex Net execs from London to help run the show).
Other online retailers are tapping into the more accessible market with smaller sites that stock chic and affordable American brands that appeal to a younger Chinese consumer. Tiare Boutique carries American T-shirt brands Michael Stars and Velvet at prices that are comparable to the United States as well as leather brand Veda and Graham & Spencer. Gizzy & Nacho has a cool selection of American and local labels such as Mischa and Vicious Venom.
Newer to the scene is Basically Nowhere which caters to men too (men buy more luxury goods than women do in China). Brands include All Day Apparel, Nicole Richie’s House of Harlow 1960, N4E1, and Stylestalker.