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China’s luxury shoppers turn to outlet centres for a few bargains

Florentia Village. – Afp picFlorentia Village. – Afp picSHANGHAI, May 20 — With China remaining firmly on track to become the world’s largest market for luxury goods, high-end brands are increasingly looking for ways and means to reach this massive, label-hungry consumer base. 

And the latest trend to hit the country is the outlet centre, a concept that has its origins in the United States over a century ago and was first seen as a way to fill up empty space and to move leftover stock. 

Not so today. The very latest in styles from the likes of Versace, Burberry, Prada and Zegna can be found among around 160 stores in the 60,000 square meter Florentia Village , situated in the rapidly growing town of Wuqing, round halfway between the Chinese capital Beijing and the sprawling “second tier’ city of Tianjin. 

Such outlet centres cut out the middle man and allow the brands to sell direct to the consumer, with discounts beginning at around 30 per cent and sometimes reaching as much as 80 per cent. 

The one billion yuan (RM608) Florentia Village — which features such fancy extras as gondoliers servicing a series of canals and a version of a Roman colosseum — opened its doors in June last year and such has been its success that Chinese media have reported that there are around a dozen similar large-scale projects in the work across the country, to go to the 400 or so that have already been established over the past few years. 

The Shanghai Brilliance Group — one of China’s largest retailers — in February opened the doors of its third outlet centre, a 130,000 square metre colossus in Wuhan, in the central Hubei province. The company says it will have 10 more such centres up and running by 2014. 

Investment group CLSA last year predicted China would account for 44 per cent of the world’s luxury goods sales by 2020, up from the current 15 per cent, while the consultancy firm Bain & Company claims Chinese consumers spent around 275 billion yuan on luxury goods both at home and abroad last year — so it’s little wonder trends such at the outlet malls are taking off. And, of course, having such centres near your front door helps boost sales as well. 

As Anthony Chan, chairman of mall developers the Scitech Group, told the South China Morning Post recently: “If Chinese customers are willing to fly 10 to 20 hours to the [United] States to look for bargain shopping, there must be a marketplace in their home country.” — Afp-Relaxnews

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