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Mar 23, 2023
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Luxury bags are significantly more expensive in China than in Europe

Translated by
Mar 23, 2023

Although China's demand for luxury goods has declined in 2022 for the first time after five years of exponential growth, it remains a strategic market for the high-end industry. While the wealthiest Chinese have not yet returned to Europe or the United States, they have resumed domestic travel as anti-Covid measures have slowed. More than ever since the beginning of 2023, fashion labels are betting on a rebound in domestic demand, adjusting their offer and prices upwards, as illustrated by a study by data analysis specialist Retviews by Lectra.

Brands are trying to attract Chinese customers with their leather bags, like the Horsebit 1955 - Gucci

Thanks to a strong dollar (today 1 dollar is equivalent to 0.92 euro), American tourists have returned in force to the luxury shops of the major European capitals in 2022. With the Chinese yuan (officially called the renminbi) currently trading at around €0.13, it is easy to imagine a strong resurgence of Chinese shopping in Europe too. But as the leaders of the major luxury groups pointed out at their recent annual results, this return is not expected to happen before the second half of the year.

For the time being, companies are not being pushed to harmonise their prices from one market to another, and most of them are implementing their highest increases in China. If, according to the consultancy firm Bain & Company, sales of luxury goods in the country fell by 10% last year, they could rise by 25% to 35% this year according to Bernstein analysts, suggesting significant gains, especially if the labels manage to capitalise on the renewed appetite of Chinese consumers for their products, also benefiting from the savings that the latter have accumulated during the "zero Covid" period.

"Looking at the international price landscape in the luxury sector, Retviews' data shows that high-end luxury players maintain a consistent lower price positioning in Japan compared to China," the study said, with Louis Vuitton having the highest differential (-50%), compared to -14% for Gucci, -6% for Celine and -8% for Bottega Veneta.

Price differences based on the market - Retviews by Lectra

In contrast, brands have different strategies for other Asian markets. "Apart from the specific exceptions of a few brands, China remains the most expensive Asian market for leather goods," says Retviews. With the easily recognisable "it bags," made in Europe and synonymous with craftsmanship, these are the most sought-after items. It is in China, but also in the United States, that leather goods are expected to accelerate their growth in the coming years.

According to Retviews data, "there are significant price differences between luxury leather goods in Europe, the UK, the US and China." For example, the price of the Celine Triomphe canvas tote bag is significantly lower in France than in the US and China, at $2,616, $2,950 and $3,675 respectively, with the Chinese paying 40% more for this model than in France. They also pay 42% more for Bottega Veneta's iconic "Cabat" braided bag, 30% more for Louis Vuitton's popular Neverfull and 20% more for Gucci's Ophidia tote.

The analysis company is particularly interested in the case of Gucci's Horsebit 1955 model, which was first relaunched by Tom Ford and more recently reintroduced by Alessandro Michele. While it was previously sold for around $400, its price has literally exploded and it is even the subject of a dedicated campaign that has just been launched with American actresses Halle Bailey and Julia Garner, as well as Korean singer Hanni as its muses. According to Retviews, the bag has increased in price twice since the beginning of 2022, reaching $2,725 (€2,500) to date. Marketed in China 30% more than in Europe, it has shown a 14% year-on-year increase in the European market and 15% in the Chinese market.

Gucci and Louis Vuitton now have a wider range of leather goods in China - Retviews by Lectra

Before the pandemic, Europe attracted wealthy Chinese tourists, not only because of the lower prices of their luxury goods, but also because the range of items was much wider, especially in terms of the more creative fashion products. According to the data analyst, this is no longer true. Houses are now expanding their offerings in China, including during the Chinese New Year, which has become a high point in sales for luxury goods, by surfing on the signs of Chinese astrology, celebrating for example in 2023 the year of the rabbit.

"Luxury brands have significantly increased their investments in China. Two of the most popular brands in China, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, have a wider range of leather goods in this market compared to France," says Retviews, noting that "Gucci has almost tripled the number of leather goods in China compared to its range in France, while Louis Vuitton has 19% more leather goods in its range in China than in France."

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