Italian brands and the Chinese market: the secret of a happy relationship

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Luxury brands in general and fashion in particular have been identified by multiple analysts as the driving forces in Italian economy. This is due in no small measure to an increase in export and an optimisation of productive processes, as well as the strengthening relationships between Italy and certain specific markets. One such is the Chinese market, whose interest in made-in-Italy luxury goods has been growing steadily over the past few years. It is not rare for the staff of designer stores in Milan’s fashion district, for instance, to be given specific guidelines on how to best serve Chinese customers and to cater to them specifically, as they account for almost a third of the total sales of luxury goods worldwide. It is an established fact that shopping is now among the chief interests of tourists visiting Italy.

Reach out to Chinese entrepreneurs working in Italy

Italian brands and the Chinese market: the secret of a happy relationship

What makes Italian fashion unique

But most importantly, what keeps an industry not only afloat, but thriving through a time of general recession? There is no simple answer to that, but it is possible to identify a combination of factors that not only explain the Italian fashion industry’s current growth, but allow for reasonable optimism on future trends. Among the values that are more commonly associated with Italian fashion and Italian style, authenticity ranks usually among the first. There is widespread appreciation for the way most Italian brands have managed to keep their productive processes in the Country, instead of outsourcing them – as most international brands do. This has kept traditional Italian craftsmanship alive and enhanced it with modern production techniques, while upholding the quality standards that made Italian fashion famous in the first place. Chinese luxury consumers in particular are deeply discerning and they tend to be experts on the goods they purchase. Attaching a “made in Italy” label to any product won’t automatically make it successful on the Chinese market (or any other market for that matter), not even within those markets that have a proven record of welcoming Italian products with enthusiasm.

Global and national consumer

The average purchaser of luxury goods is mostly to be found in large metropolitan cities: attending shows at the Milan Fashion Week or in Florence for Pitti Uomo, flitting between via dei Condotti and via del Corso in Rome, or looking for unique little treasures in Venice. This globe-trotting elite is used to shopping for Italian fashion brands at home too – Italian brand stores are a familiar sight in Beijing high street shopping malls – , but enjoys the experience of acquiring the most coveted articles of fashion in the Country that originated them. They trade globally, but often shop locally and they will be quick to spot changes in quality, style and durability. This is the kind of audience with which Italian brands should look to establish a durable bond, based on trust and on the ability to keep the high standards that customers expect from their preferred brands.

Internationalization of Italian brands

Italian companies aiming for the Chinese market, should start by getting access to international retailers in the regions that they wish to do business with. This entails several steps beyond simply obtaining distribution or opening stores. Each market – and, in the specific case of China, each region – presents unique challenges and characteristics and it should be researched thoroughly before approaching it. In the long run, growing a brand abroad will make it familiar to the type of consumers that the company wishes to attract, thereby increasing the flow of international visitors to the brand’s Italian stores as well. This is not an overnight process, but it has been proven to yield excellent results when carried out properly over a reasonable amount of time.

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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