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China's biggest jeweller sees gold in the masses

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China's biggest jeweller sees gold in the masses
December 5, 2013 10:07 PM
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tiffany tiffany silver By Donny Kwok tiffany and co HONG KONG, Dec 6 (Reuters) - The world's most valuablejewellery retailer Chow Tai Fook, which counts Cartier and Tiffany & Co as competitors, is on a questto conquer the hearts of China's future big spenders. Itsweapons of choice: Hello Kitty and Winnie the Pooh. cheap tiffany and co jewelry Superman and the Angry Birds team also feature in Chow TaiFook Jewellery Group's range of fashionable, and affordable,pieces which the company hopes will win over the millions ofChinese who live outside major cities but who are reaping thebenefits of a rapidly growing economy and who remain enamouredby the gleam of gold. cheap tiffany and co jewelry "We are quite similar to the fast fashion way of business inthat our products are only available for a limited period oftime," Kent Wong, managing director of Chow Tai Fook, toldReuters. tiffany & co "The stock-keeping units will have to respond promptly tothe fast-changing tastes of customers, especially youngcustomers, who can share information about trends very quicklyon their smartphones," he added. China, the world's second-largest economy, is on track toovertake India as the world's biggest consumer of gold this yearas falling prices encourage purchases for both personal use andinvestment. Combine that penchant for gold with a population that israpidly urbanising, and becoming more affluent andtrend-conscious in the process, and building customer loyalty aswell as keeping up with fashion becomes key to the prospects ofjewellery retailers. About 100 million people are likely to move into cities overthe next 17 years, according to ratings agency Moody's. China isalready the second-largest market for Zara-brand owner Inditex, the world's biggest fashion retailer. "Just like fast fashion, fast jewellery is the right stuffto target at the youth and the products can also sell at abetter margin when they are limited edition," said Renee Tai, aHong Kong-based analyst at brokerage UOB-Kay Hian. GOLD FOR THE MASSES Chow Tai Fook's U.S.-based competitor Tiffany & Co, bestknown for its expensive diamond necklaces and engagement rings,also gets about 30 percent of sales globally from its lessexpensive jewellery, primarily silver items costing less than$500 that have long been part of its selection. This lower-end jewellery is the company's most profitable,though sales growth in this category has slowed in recent years.Earlier this year, Tiffany hired a new designer to make itssilver jewellery more contemporary and the company introducedsome new silver jewellery lines. Chow Tai Fook's fashion jewellery, which costs betweenHK$200 and HK$2,000 ($26 and $260), is also a far cry from theluxury offerings that have traditionally accounted for over 80percent of sales, and which on average cost about 10 times asmuch. But the shift to expand mass-market retail is already payingoff. Chow Tai Fook saw its net profit rise by a forecast-beating92.3 percent in the six months ended September, with same-storesales growing 33.2 percent. Chow Tai Fook, which has a market value of nearly $16billion, is not alone in targeting the masses. Smaller rival Luk Fook Holdings International,with a market value of $2.4 billion, is looking at openingstores in busy railway stations to expand its reach in China andraise its profile in less developed cities and the vasthinterland. Building brand loyalty also makes good business sense. Repeat purchases by Chow Tai Fook's Hong Kong memberscontributed almost 17 percent to total revenue in Hong Kong andMacau for the six months ended September, while those from itsChina members made up nearly one-quarter of total sales in themainland, company data shows. "We are seeing a significant surge in retailers investing inloyalty programs in order to increase consumers' loyalty as it'sgetting harder and harder for retailers to drive growth bypurely relying on their quick pace of expansion," said BrianNegley, vice president of consumer research firm Nielsen China. IMAGE CONSCIOUS But as it pushes into rapidly changing jewellery, Chow TaiFook faces the challenge of retaining its reputation forexclusive, luxury items while also appealing to the masses. The company, founded in 1929, aims to achieve this byselling some of its fast jewellery products online, where mostcustomers are aged between 20 and 35. Chow Tai Fook also maintains three distinct store layoutsthat cater to its clients - the high-end luxury consumers, theyouth and the mass market, managing director Wong said. Analysts say focusing on the younger generation is key. "The company has to ensure this group of people getsfamiliar with the brand and they won't feel your products areout-of-date," said UOB-Kay Hian analyst Tai. "They have to groom a new group of customers to support thebrand and products." Business Investment & Company Information Chow Tai Fook China
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