SHANGHAI — Piazza Sempione officially celebrated its entry into the Chinese market with a fashion show and cocktail reception Monday night in Citic Square, a high-end shopping mall where the Italian brand opened its second store in the country at the end of September.
The Italian label opened its first store on the Mainland in Beijing’s Shin Kong Place shopping center in April, and plans to open 10 more units over the next three years in China, according to chief executive officer Enrico Morra, who flew in from Milan for the event. The next openings are slated for Hangzhou, a city outside of Shanghai, and Chengdu, a metropolis in the interior, sometime in early 2012.
Morra said the timing for entering China centers on changing consumer tastes: There are a growing number of Chinese who want to buy expensive niche brands rather than purchase luxury labels consumed by a less sophisticated, more mass segment of Mainland shoppers.
“The Chinese consumer is evolving so much,” Morra said. “Ten years ago [Piazza Sempione] would have been too quiet. They only wanted the branded luxury goods.”
Now, Morra said, the brand is homing in on a demographic of Chinese women who are “more discerning, don’t want to stand out yet want to look amazing all day long.”
How the brand will reach this demographic remains a work in progress. There are plans to launch a digital campaign in China, and e-commerce is in the cards. Piazza Sempione is also seeking out local celebrities, such as Patty Hou, a Taiwanese actress who attended the grand opening, to help raise awareness locally. Special events in second- and third-tier cities will be part of a broader strategy to reach consumers who are on the lookout for something other than big labels and luxury bling.
“It will take some time to get the ball rolling,” Morra said.
The brand is working with a local partner to help open new stores and to hire staff to manage its retail operations. Over the next two years, Morra projects China will make up 10 percent of the brand’s global sales. Today, the United States is the strongest market for the brand, accounting for 55 percent of sales, followed by Italy. Piazza Sempione also has a retail presence in Japan and Taiwan. Morra declined to reveal the company’s total revenues.
“It is never too late to start,” Morra said. “We take the markets one by one, and we step into them when we are ready. At a certain point you have to face it [China], but it is also the biggest opportunity.”