x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Luxury shopping: Chinese tourists know just what they want

The Life: The president and chief executive of The Luxury Marketing Council, Middle East, discusses how Dubai can cater to Chinese tourists looking for high-end luxury goods.

Mac McClelland, who heads The Luxury Marketing Council in Dubai, says catering to Chinese and Russian buyers is key. Antonie Robertson / The National
Mac McClelland, who heads The Luxury Marketing Council in Dubai, says catering to Chinese and Russian buyers is key. Antonie Robertson / The National
Mac McClelland, president and chief executive of The Luxury Marketing Council, Middle East, talks about how Dubai can tap into the growing demand for high-end goods from Chinese tourists. He is also the founder of Center House, a consultancy that helps brands do business here.
 
More and more Chinese visitors are heading to Dubai as a holiday destination. What are luxury brands doing to prepare for them?
According to Dubai Duty Free, last year Chinese made up 4 per cent of their shoppers and accounted for 11 per cent of all purchases, which amounts to US$170 million. If you have more Chinese coming to the UAE, it is easy to raise that number just from Chinese tourists alone. Brands here are preparing, but it is not restricted to hiring Mandarin-speaking employees. They are focusing on staff that have knowledge across the brands and products, and the ability to be conversant on all kinds of products such as perfumes and accessories.
 
What are the luxury shopping habits of Chinese visitors?
Brands need to understand the motivation of the Chinese customer; they come to buy watches ranging from luxury brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe and Chopard and also brands close to a luxury brand such as TAG Heuer. So they are hitting both luxury and consumer markets. They also purchase a lot of Islamic art. But mostly they buy watches, handbags and gold rather than cut stones. And they go to those shops where they know they will get the genuine products.
 
How discerning are Chinese tourists when they shop for luxury products?
Affluent Chinese consumers are armed with a lot of market and product information, unlike the majority of shoppers who go to a mall and if they like it, they buy it. But Chinese shoppers come prepared, [knowing] where they can get the exact model of a handbag they are looking for.
 
What other nationalities should the brands prepare for?
Brands were preparing themselves for Russian-speaking tourists 20 to 25 years ago. But with the crowd still coming, brands now want to know how they can fine-tune their offerings. The next wave of luxury consumers will be Africans.
 
Tell me more about The Luxury Marketing Council?
The council was founded in Manhattan 19 years ago, and I opened the council in Dubai in 2008. It is a membership-based organisation and brands are the members. Globally there are 1,100 brands presented by 5,000 people. Here the membership is 20.
 
What activities do you organise?
Breakfast meetings and meet-ups at places such as Ruth's Chris Steak House, Zayed University, Greenline Yacht Interiors or Crowne Plaza, some of whom are our members. We will launch a chapter in Abu Dhabi by early 2014, and eventually in all Arab countries as well as Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.
 
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