LONDON, United Kingdom — It has been over a year since our first flagship opened in Hong Kong. The protests were in full swing then and the media’s downbeat portrayal of the Hong Kong luxury market has grown steadily ever since. But despite concerns over the city’s ability to keep affluent shoppers buying and all the talk about Greater China’s recent downturn, we have had nothing but success from our new venture there.
The opening of our first Monica Vinader boutique at the IFC mall was smooth. For all the reports about the market challenges, everything was delivered on time, on budget and to an exceptional standard. Our customers in Hong Kong are 80 percent local and 20 percent expat — and performance from that demographic alone has been strong enough to persuade us to open two more doors in the city, which we recently did.
At our second boutique in Harbour City and our counter at Sogo Department Store, it is the overwhelmingly high number of mainland Chinese visitors, particularly during the weekend, who drive our sales. Although it is still early days, we are greatly encouraged as shoppers have been quick to embrace our everyday diamonds, semi-precious stones, friendship bracelets and same-day complimentary engraving service that is synonymous with our brand. Now, it’s about building loyalty.
As a British jewellery brand with a global vision, I find Hong Kong an incredible place to do business in. Taxes are low; the infrastructure is world-class; and the growth opportunities offered by the city’s easy access to mainland China are phenomenal. The business culture there is marked by a refreshingly can-do attitude. Word-of-mouth works magic. Decisions are made quickly. Things get done.
Granted, we were lucky to build a good team from the start and have good business contacts too, who supported the brand from day one, whether it was landlords, press, fashion influencers or friends of the brand. Serving an exceptionally cosmopolitan, wealthy and sophisticated clientele, Hong Kong is a dynamic place for younger brands and start-ups. We’ve found that there is a real understanding of quality and luxury among our customers and partners, as well as a genuine appetite for new things.
From my first trip, I knew it made absolute sense to choose Hong Kong as the first step towards our expansion in Asia. The city is the commercial star of modern China. As well as using Hong Kong as a base for our Asia expansion, we are also looking at how to tackle the mainland China market in 2016.
The world of luxury is cutthroat and competitive, and there is no denying that Hong Kong is a tougher market than it used to be. We have a lot of work to do to connect with our customers and to keep their loyalty, but so far the city has exceeded our expectations.
From where I am standing and judging by early results, I’d say that the city is still a powerful platform for luxury entrepreneurs with a strong product and big ambitions.
Monica Vinader is the CEO and founder of Monica Vinader jewellery.