SHANGHAI — Tory Burch along with Wendi Deng Murdoch, dancer Charles “Lil Buck” Riley and a bevy of Chinese beauties, were on hand Wednesday night for the opening of the designer’s largest store in the world.
This story first appeared in the October 30, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
With a marching band performing and a boxwood hedge depiction of the New York skyline, the event began with a cocktail party at the 9,645-square-foot flagship, before moving on to the Bund, where New York restaurant duo Ben Towill and Phil Winser from Fat Radish served dinner on exclusive new spongeware plates from Tory Burch Home.
As well as celebrating the store’s grand opening, the event marked the launch of a special capsule collection of 20 ready-to-wear pieces and accessories, exclusively available in the Shanghai flagship.
Located in a prime street-front position of the relatively new Kerry Center retail complex on downtown shopping street Nanjing Xi Lu, Burch said the flagship signals how serious the brand is about its plans for expansion in China — so long as it’s done the right way.
“I think it’s been a long-term plan of doing it carefully and slowly and waiting for the right spots. This store is a big step for us, it’s our largest store ever and it’s going to be a very important store for us, it’s our first flagship in Asia,” Burch said.
Though wary of expanding too quickly — the store brings the total to ten in Mainland China — Burch acknowledged that the company was riding a wave of interest in contemporary brands in China, as well as a marked increase in the desire from local consumers for American labels.
“I think it’s the casual elegance that people seem to be liking here. I’m really happy that our ready-to-wear is performing so well. I think that more relaxed, not so complicated feel, is appealing. It’s a more casual time,” she said.
Michael Zakkour, author of new book, “China’s Super Consumers,” believes the brand is in the right place at the right time.
“The trends are all there for them in China. An increased desire for American brands; a desire for smaller, more niche brands in fashion; the trend toward ‘affordable’ luxury brands, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese traveling to the U.S. and being exposed to the brand there,” he said.
Though he agrees that the brand has “a lot of potential” in China, Benjamin Cavender, a senior analyst at China Market Research Group, said the brand’s slow and steady entry into the China market has left it open to copies and knockoffs that have proliferated online and in the country’s numerous fake markets.
By opening more legitimate stores, Cavender believes this tide will soon be stemmed.
“The good news is that given the ability to buy the real thing Chinese consumers prefer to do so, however the brand needs to manage the situation to ensure that consumers do not gain a negative perception of product quality,” he said.
Unlike in the U.S., the personal narrative of Burch has yet to cut through with consumers in China, who relate to the brand as offering interesting design and high quality at a good price.
Cavender believes that as consumers become more aware of Burch’s story, this will strengthen the brand among its target demographic of working women, often juggling career and motherhood.
“At this stage Chinese consumers do not know too much about her personal history or path to success but they learn quickly and tend to spend time researching brands and designers so this could potentially work in the brand’s favor,” he said.
As for Tory Burch’s ambitions in the China market, continued organic growth is the game plan. With plenty of room still to grow in China and Asia, it’s not hard to imagine an increased focus on the region in the years to come.
“International is about 25 percent of our business and Asia is such an important part of that,” Burch said. “We don’t break out numbers specifically, but we feel we have so much potential ahead of us here.”