INTERVIEW Rewriting the rules of jewelry retail in China

The expert view from Kent Wong

With around 1,600 retail outlets and counting, China’s Chow Tai Fook is the world’s largest jewelry retailer. Managing Director Kent Wong, who spoke at LINK Jewelry Summit 2013, shares some key insights.

Kent Wong
The cultural differences between China and the West are breaking down, thanks to the internet and globalization.

On emerging trends in China…
Traditionally, jewelry was only worn for special occasions and celebrations, for example weddings or Chinese New Year. But as Mainland China becomes more affluent, people can afford to buy more fashion jewelry for everyday wear. Until recently, the size and quality of a gemstone was all that mattered—large solitaires were what customers aspired to. Now, design and craftsmanship are a much bigger part of the equation.

On regional differences…
The cultural differences between China and the West are breaking down, thanks to the internet and globalization. But there is still a great deal of variation in consumer tastes and shopping behavior across different regions. In the Tier 1 cities—Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen—and in Tier 2 cities, such as Zhenghzou, Ningbo, and Xiamen, contemporary jewelry is becoming increasingly popular, whereas in the lower tier cities traditional jewelry still rules. These regional differences even extend to the decorative elements in jewelry design. Southern and western Chinese consumers are drawn to floral patterns; in the east and the north, zodiac signs are more popular.

On retail opportunities…
There’s huge market potential in Mainland China. With more exposure to Western culture and fashion , customers—particularly younger ones—are much more open to new concepts, and new styles and designs in jewelry. Working women are another big target market. The good news is that the Mainland market is big enough to accommodate both the mass and the luxury ends, and at both ends, it’s great product design that’s key to winning customers. Jewelry brands that can offer exceptional design and excellent customer service are definitely the ones best placed to capture market share.

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