WWD.com/globe-news/designer-luxury/comite-colbert-launches-chinese-web-site-2356394/

PARIS — In a move to raise the profile of French luxury brands among young Chinese consumers, Comité Colbert, France’s main luxury association, has launched an interactive, three-dimensional Web site to create a virtual voyage through French luxury and culture.

This story first appeared in the October 30, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Called cColbert, the site will target the young Chinese, who are heavy Internet users and turn to the Web as a source of information for luxury goods.

This online installation contains audio and visual elements provided by the 70 French luxury brands represented by Comité Colbert to illustrate their products and heritage.

According to consulting firm Pao Principle, browsing the Web is the second most important source of information for luxury goods in China, after magazines. But it’s the most used media for the 20-to-24 set, who prefer to check luxury brands’ sites to find information about handbags, luxury watches and fine jewelry before making purchases.

The new site, ccolbert.fr, has been created in partnership with Sina, China’s largest portal, which counts 230 million users worldwide and clocks 600 million hits every day.

“With cColbert, the Comité Colbert fulfils its role by investing in the Chinese market, which remains the main relay of growth for our brands, even the smaller ones,” stated Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes, chief executive officer of Comité Colbert.

The Chinese luxury market has shown impressive gains and is expected to grow 12 percent this year, according to consultancy Bain & Co, even though the economic downturn is still hurting demand in other markets, which are forecast to show an overall decline of 8 percent in 2009.

As a result, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, PPR — the owner of Gucci Group — and Hermès International are stepping up their store opening plans in China.

According to Comité Colbert, French luxury brands already have a considerable presence in 69 Chinese cities through more than 1,600 doors. By the end of 2010, French luxury brands expect open 45 directly owned boutiques in 15 Chinese cities, including five in Chengdu, southwest China’s largest urban center.

The launch of the Web site has coincided with an official visit to China by French finance minister Christine Lagarde along with 25 top executives from the country’s key companies.