How can luxury brands attract Mainland millennial travellers to Hong Kong?

With China’s vision of the Greater Bay Area becoming a reality and Shenzhen shining as a new technology and cultural hub, many start to cry wolf about the “decline” of Hong Kong.
 
The luxury shopping driven travelers, attracted to Hong Kong’s tax-free prices may fade. Luxury Mainland Chinese consumers are now more likely to purchase online, in Europe or “at home” where luxury brands are beginning to lower their prices.
But observing Hong Kong through the lens of Mainland Millennials, less excited by shopping and craving authentic and original experiences, shines another light on the region.
 
Hong Kong’s schizophrenic identity seems to attract them: on one hand, more Chinese and traditional than China, with its survival temples, celebrations, street shrines and culinary traditions, and on the other, more international and “free”.
Hong-Kong-Graffiti

Hong Kong graffiti 

Hong Kong may not stand for modernity anymore, and Cantonese culture – Canto pop music and Hong Kong cinema – is losing influence. But Hong Kong is unique to deliver a vintage experience, which mainland China’s hyper modern, standardized cities are missing. Hong Kong offers a unique hybrid experience: blending the traditional Chinese elements, colonial and modern Westernization, and both exclusive and street lifestyles.
For instance, the current trend on social media is sharing the experience of afternoon tea in Hong Kong, a tradition inherited from the British colonial period, but creatively revived by luxury hotels. The Ritz Carlton even partnered with local jewelry brand Qeelin, to integrate a Cantonese touch.
 
Boutique premium hotels, like the Star ferry inspired The Fleming and the Victorian-style Hullett House, also focused on creating a modern retro vibe which appeals to millennials. They found an alternative between historical hotels like the Peninsula and corporate, modern hotel chains.
A vintage luxury hunting trend also occurs in Hong Kong, with tiny “hidden boutiques”, like OnceStyle, Label Chic and Bang Bang 70s. Millennials would post online their finds – unobtainable in China – as “trophies”.
Hong Kong also offers Millennials a blend of popular and exclusive lifestyle, which defines the modern luxury experience. They enjoy shopping one day in a fancy shopping mall like the Landmark, and the next day wandering along Mong Kok’s Sneaker street, or having dinner in packed street food restaurants awarded with a Michelin star.
 
The wildest trend among mainland tourists: scaling rooftops, to take selfies in old residential areas considered “cool” like Sham Shui Po, where street art is developing. Which proves that the chaotic urbanism and colorful aesthetics of Hong Kong, are “Instagrammable”.
 
Millennials also praise rebellion and irony within brands, and free forms of expression that Mainland China doesn’t allow. In 2017, street artist Alec Monopoly was commissioned to paint Hong Kong tram (an icon of Hong Kong) in collaboration with luxury watch brand Tag Heuer. 

 
Hong-Kong-graffiti1
Hong Kong graffiti 
 
Luxury brands should reflect this authentic Hong Kong spirit in their boutiques and pop-up stores, to create a unique Hong Kong shopping experience. They must be careful to avoid caricatured Chinese gimmicks, such as bird cages or red Chinese lanterns in boutiques, which would at most amuse a few western tourists.
 
Japan is an inspiring example to how Hong Kong’s luxury market could exemplify itself. For instance, the Japanese artist Yuko Higuchi collaborated with Gucci to create a limited edition “Japan exclusive” collection. And the brand succeeded in attracting Chinese Millennials to travel to Japan to purchase these unique goods.
 
Luxury brands should also promote local artists (who are now overshadowed by Mainland artists in Hong Kong galleries). Chanel, during its last year’s exhibition “Mademoiselle Privé”, commissioned a camellia-shaped paper lantern and Dropping Pearls video from Hong Kong artists SK Lam and Anothermountainman.
 
CHANEL-Madmoiselle-exhibition-in-Hong-kong

CHANEL Madmoiselle exhibition in Hong kong

The major challenge to overcome is for luxury brands to break the confined globally standardized environment of shopping malls. Initiatives like PMQ and Tai Kwun and K11 which aim to blend art, lifestyle, western and local brands are certainly going in the right direction, but should explore more creative ways to be inspired by local Cantonese culture.
Part of the content of this article was presented during the Luxury Symposium 3d Edition“Greater Bay Area: a new playground for luxury brands”, on November 5th 2018. 

The topic of our keynote was: ‘How does Hong Kong remain attractive to the new generation of Chinese wealthy customer?’

Alec-Monopoly-with-the-graffiti-covered-Hong-Kong-tram-1Alec Monopoly with the graffiti-covered Hong Kong tram

(Reported by CPP-LUXURY)