PARIS — Chinese consumers are cooling on luxury brands and in search of fashions to express individuality – at a good price.
“Sales on luxury goods are down and the more accessible brands are thriving. The Chinese consumer is no longer interested in splurging on status symbols, instead they’re looking to discover unique brands that will help them stand out from the crowd,” Sun Guowei, general manager of China World Exhibitions, said Tuesday at a press conference here. “It’s an indication that the market is maturing.”
“The consumer is changing. Before everybody dressed in the same way. Today it’s all about individual style,” echoed Gérard Roudine, former executive director of the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin who works with China World’s CHIC trade show as an independent consultant. “CHIC used to be wholly dedicated to franchises, today it looks a lot more like Who’s Next or any similar trade show. The change has come about over the past two-to-three years and it will take around the same amount of time for them to get where they need to be.”
China World organized the session to outline evolutions in the biannual event and the local market.
Founded by the China National Garment Association in 1993, CHIC moved from Beijing to Shanghai in 2015 and moved to the biannual format to mirror China’s fast changing fashion industry, organizers said, citing “dramatic” shifts in the behavior of the Chinese consumer as well as China’s retail landscape. Multi-brand stores and new-generation shopping malls are mushrooming. Traditionally focused on Chinese brands, department stores are also reviewing their approach with sales seriously impacted by competition from e-commerce sites as well as anti-corruption measures recently put in place by the Chinese government.
CHIC’s most recent edition, held last March, featured 1,300 brands from across 20 countries and regions and drew 104,592 visitors from across China. The next session is slated to run Oct. 11 to 13 at Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Center.
Patricia Brafman, international director of the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin, who is also in charge of the show’s French pavilion, Paris Forever, which entered CHIC in 2010, said that, whereas the fair used to be about making contacts with investors or franchisees, today French brands are gathering solid orders. “In value terms, the orders are pretty substantial,” she said citing average orders per exhibitor of 50,000 euros to 60,000 euros, or $56,000 to $67,000 at current exchange rates.
Guowei said China’s clothing sector remains stable despite factors such as the global economic slowdown and the impact of the government’s anti-corruption measures on sales of luxury goods. Apparel sales in China in 2015 totaled around 13 trillion yuan, or $2 trillion at average exchange rates for the period, he said.
The strongest performing segments in China are women’s wear, accessories, kids and activewear, with sales on the latter category expected to total more than 5 trillion yuan in 2025, or $749.18 billion at current exchange rates, according to Guowei.
“We are no longer chasing the gold medal, the emphasis is on sport for all, not just the elite,” he said, sharing an anecdote about a marathon that’s due to take place in Beijing over the coming weeks. “The last time it was staged, around 10,000 people participated. This time, subscriptions have already topped 60,000. They’ve had to put in place a lottery system for anyone who wants to take part.”
Regarding the future of the apparel industry in China, the Chinese government wants growth to come from local consumption over exports, according to Roudine. “Manufacturers without any added value have to either close or transfer production elsewhere,” he said. “China has to enter the new economy with innovation, R&D, it’s something very new.”