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sexta-feira, 27 de novembro de 2009

Luxo - mais de metade do consumo está na Ásia

Artigo publicado esta semana pela Câmara de Comércio de Hong Kong:

The High Life

Asia's temples of luxury are attracting moneyed pockets of high-end shoppers, who account for more than half of the estimated US$80 billion in luxury products purchased globally each year. As the region's gateway, Hong Kong is reaping the benefits.

Recent world economic woes notwithstanding, it seems that Asia’s appetite for luxury brands continues unabated. The strength of luxury-product shoppers in Asia is bringing “a glimmer of hope to a beleaguered industry,” according to US-based consultancy Bain & Company, in its latest study on luxury-goods markets worldwide.

Another new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers calls Asia the “standout success” of the luxury sector, which is holding firm as other markets slump. It says Asia has the brightest outlook for luxury brands, noting that, by 2015, the Chinese mainland is forecast to become the world’s top buyer of luxury goods.

The latest Capgemini Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report found the Chinese mainland’s population of high net-worth individuals surpassed that of the United Kingdom, to rank as the world’s fourth-largest in 2008, and is poised to overtake North America for the top spot by 2013.

With all the money there for the taking, Hong Kong, at the gateway, is feeling the force. Brands are reporting robust sales across a range of luxury lifestyle products.

Accelerating Sales

One example is luxury cars. The sector slumped 40 per cent globally during the financial crisis, but, in September, when Rolls-Royce previewed its new super-luxury Ghost in Hong Kong, the dealer was swamped with orders.

The Hong Kong launch was the first in the Asia-Pacific region, and came just two days after the limousine’s global launch at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Rolls-Royce said the fact that it came so soon after Frankfurt “underlines the importance of the Greater China/Hong Kong market to us.”
At the launch, Colin Kelly, Regional Director, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said people were showing renewed interest in the luxury sector and said Hong Kong is a good market for the brand.

“We regard Hong Kong as a metropolis for luxury goods, and history has shown that we have had a strong heritage here. It is no coincidence that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars secured its single-largest order to date – of 14 bespoke extended-wheelbase Phantoms – in 2006 from The Peninsula Hong Kong.”

He added that Rolls-Royce orders in Greater China have exceeded 100 cars in less than two months. “We see a great future for Rolls-Royce in Greater China and the Asia-Pacific region, both for Ghost and Phantom.”

Diamonds are forever

Hong Kong has also sparkled for the De Beers Group, the world’s leading diamond company, at a time when the jewellery industry has been hit hard by the recession. The company launched its Forevermark brand in Hong Kong, Macau, the mainland and Japan last December, and it has been so successful that the brand is now available at about 250 outlets across Asia.

“We actually piloted the Forevermark brand in Hong Kong in 2004, because Hong Kong is a highly dynamic, competitive and self-contained marketplace, with sophisticated and discerning consumers,” said Nancy Liu, Managing Director for China and Hong Kong. “Our thinking was that if Forevermark could succeed in Hong Kong, then it could succeed elsewhere. There was such a positive reaction to the pilot that it made absolute sense to launch it in Hong Kong.”

While De Beers believes Forevermark has the potential to be a successful global brand, its focus is on making it a success in Asia first, where it will expand the rollout to select authorised Forevermark jewellers.

Hong Kong will continue to be very important to the brand, Ms Liu said. “Hong Kong has positioned itself as the aspirational shopping destination for mainland visitors, who are increasingly interested in purchasing diamonds.”

Pretty in Pink

The decision by auction house Christie’s to offer the rare Vivid Pink diamond at its 1 December auction in Hong Kong is further evidence of the city’s importance as a market for fine jewels.

“Hong Kong is exceedingly important to Christie’s. In fact, Hong Kong is our third largest sales venue, behind New York and London, a position it has held since 2004,” said Vickie Sek, Director of Jewellery, Christie’s Asia.

Christie’s Hong Kong sales across all categories have grown faster and declined less than any other area of the business, Ms Sek noted. “The tremendous excitement that has been such a feature of this region as the newly wealthy add their weight to the market paused earlier this year, but is now back in force.”

For Christie’s jewellery sales, in particular, the strength of the Asian market has been building for some time. “In fact, for the past several seasons our jewellery sales in Hong Kong have been the most valuable at Christie's, bringing in more than the historic top centres of New York and Geneva. So Christie's now sees Hong Kong firmly alongside these two cities as a major international centre for the sale of the world’s finest jewels.”

Rock-Solid Investment

Bonhams has reserved some of its most exquisite pieces for its fine jewellery and jadeite auction in Hong Kong, 28 November, citing growing demand. Edmond Chan, Head of Bonhams Hong Kong jewellery department, said the jewellery industry has witnessed a major shift of focus to Asia. “Particularly favourable to the buyer are exceptional and rarely seen pieces that are trickling into the Asian market.”

Mr Chan believes the growing demand for diamonds is an indication that Asians have already started buying stocks and properties in readiness for the next recovery gain. “High-grade diamonds or superb gemstones are bought for security and long-term investments. Perhaps high-risk and high-return products are seen as less desirable now to consumers, while all kinds of tangible assets seem less risky for investments.”

He added that Hong Kong, a financially secure city with its currency pegged to the US dollar, would be a stepping stone for Bonhams as it prepares for entry into the mainland market.

Bonhams will also hold Hong Kong’s first whisky auction, 27 November, offering a prized collection of single-malt whiskies from a private American collector.

Discerning Consumption

Brands are positioning themselves for a new era of luxury in the wake of the financial crisis, leading industry experts say. A global report commissioned by the De Beers Group found consumers were tired of mass-marketed luxury products and would leave “fast luxury” behind for fewer, better things.

Increased scrutiny of product quality and authenticity, a greater appreciation of fine craftsmanship and renewed calls for exclusivity were noted by the 21 executives interviewed for the report, who represented such brands as Cartier, Christie’s Europe, LVMH, Salvatore Ferragamo and Tiffany & Co. A heightened awareness of social and environmental responsibility is also important to today’s luxury consumers.

The report says that while the wealthy in emerging markets are still driven primarily by status and prestige, they are increasingly influenced by their western counterparts, and their purchasing patterns are transforming rapidly. It notes that this has significant implications for the way luxury players will do business.

De Beers calls this “a marked shift from conspicuous to discerning consumption in luxury,” adding that, in this new era of luxury, “the values of a brand have never been so important.”

It says that as luxury players transform and new niche labels emerge to capitalise on the opportunities, “competition for luxury spending will intensify.”

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