HONG KONG — Tory Burch is making further inroads in China.
More than eight years after opening an office in Hong Kong to source her collections, Tory Burch now has two stores in the city. The designer just feted her second Hong Kong location — a 1,560-square-foot store at Harbour City to join her existing boutique at the IFC mall, which opened last year. The company also just opened a Beijing location at Shin Kong Place and is planning to open its first Shanghai store later this year. Currently the brand has 50 stores worldwide.
Burch, who was in Hong Kong last week to celebrate her two new retail stores in the city, said that this has been part of her plans from the beginning. Besides her office in Hong Kong, Burch opened an office in Shanghai two years ago and conducted extensive research on the China market before opening her retail locations.
Among some changes to suit the Chinese market: popular handbag models such as the Amanda satchel were scaled down. Burch also introduced some new colors, such as coral, to her Robinson handbag line and made smaller sizes for her ready to wear collection. She noted that higher priced items generally do better in the market than in the U.S.
But surprisingly, there were few other differences in merchandise, she said.
“We see the world as a small place. Our best sellers are the same in the U.S., Europe and Asia,” said the designer, who mingled with customers and celebrities at a presentation of the brand’s fall-winter collection.
Bags, shoes and ready to wear lines each make up about one-third of the business, Burch said, the same as in the US. The brand’s customer demographic trends in China and elsewhere in Asia are also mirroring those in the US — expanding in both directions from the brand’s core 30 to 45 year old demographic group.
With such similar dynamics, new products that had been originally designed with the Asian market in mind, such as transit pass holders, have been rolled out in the US as well.
The designer and chief executive also said she is working on a fragrance and beauty line and considering expanding the brand’s offering in denim.
As an emerging American designer, brand recognition will be a challenge in China. Burch said the company has plans to use social media such as Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. The company also plans to roll out a Chinese version of its website later this year and did an editorial shoot for Vogue China featuring Du Juan, who has been touted as China’s first international supermodel.
Tory Burch’s move into the China market comes amid a rapid expansion in Asia. The designer currently has 25 distribution points in Japan, 16 in South Korea, three in Taiwan and one in the Philippines. She is also planning an opening in Bangkok, Thailand later this year. International sales currently make up about 20 percent of the company’s business, with Asia accounting for about 10 percent of total sales.
Unlike in her other Asian locations, Tory Burch’s launch in the Mainland China market is independent, without a Chinese partner. Burch said she had considered a partner but ultimately that the best people to represent the Tory Burch brand would the company itself.
“It’s a challenge we want to accomplish. It’s something I’m personally passionate about,” said Burch of her launch in China, adding that this has been a long-time goal. Her first trip to China was after college and she has fostered a fascination with the country since.
“We don’t need immediate gratification. We want to do it organically…in an understated way,” she said.