Luxury brands shower attention on well-heeled Chinese students in U.S.

Fri Dec 18, 2015 4:42pm EST
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By Kylie Gumpert

(Reuters) - Sellers of Western luxury brands eager to capitalize on the new wealth of Chinese consumers are showering attention on mainland students in the United States, even as sales in China falter.

The strategy is paying off for some, such as the Los Angeles Beverly Center mall, which sends buses to pick up Chinese families at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California at the beginning of the year, when parents drop off their children, and at graduation.

“We aren’t just dabbling here,” said Susan Vance, the Beverly Center marketing and sponsorship director. The mall sponsors Chinese student groups with roughly 45,000 members in what she called one of its most successful marketing plans.

Chinese shoppers account for 31 percent of the $273 billion global personal luxury goods market, according to Bain and Co, and the United States is the biggest market outside of Asia.

As economic growth in China has slowed and as Beijing's anti-corruption drive cuts into sales of high-end goods there, makers of luxury brands are trying to tap this key Chinese customer base when they reach U.S. shores.

Students are snapping up Louis Vuitton and Gucci handbags, Tory Burch shoes, as well as fashions from Fendi, Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent, among others, according to recent interviews with student shoppers in New York.

It is not clear how much of overall luxury sales can be attributed to purchases by students, but some top brand makers clearly see the group as a financial force in its own right and as providing access to a much larger group of well-heeled shoppers - parents and family - making it an important new marketing channel.

Some 29 percent of high net-worth parents in China who send their children abroad for primary school and college choose U.S. institutions, according to the Hurun Report, which publishes an annual list of China's richest people.   Continued...

A visitor from China looks at her mobile phone after shopping at Tifany & Co. jewelers in New York City in this April 4, 2013 file photo.   REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files