As one of the city’s leading luxury shopping zones, the area anchored by Alberni Street in downtown Vancouver is at its attention-grabbing best as high-end retailers prepare for the Year of the Monkey.
From the red glittery high heels in the Versace window and red and gold handbags at Louis Vuitton and Dior to the dazzling sparklers at jewellers like De Beers and Lao Feng Xiang, area stores present a range of merchandise for discerning gift shoppers.
Retail analyst Craig Patterson says the clustering of high-end stores in the luxury zone works for both consumers and retailers. “A concentrated effort has been made to put luxury retailers into the area to build critical mass. Big names like Versace, Burberry and Brunello Cucinelli are already there, and with Prada moving in soon and Tiffany’s plans to double its space, it will put even more of a shine on the area.”
Patterson says these retailers will be putting on their A game to attract shoppers looking for gifts to celebrate Lunar New Year. That’s apparent at nearby Holt Renfrew, where Craig Duncan, divisional vice-president and general manager, Holt Renfrew Vancouver, says his team has spent months planning a festive program to celebrate the occasion. He says themed pop-up shops, food and beverage presentations and musical performances will showcase traditions and flavours of Lunar New Year. Holt Renfrew has a custom-designed box set of eight lai see envelopes and many luxury brands at the store have special merchandise for the annual celebration.
“A few examples of special product we will carry include a Year of the Monkey palette in red lacquer packaging from Giorgio Armani Cosmetics, limited-edition zodiac charms, as well as a limited edition Dancing Lion from Links of London.” In keeping with the theme, Dolce & Gabbana has colourful monkey-print shirts for menswear shoppers.
The monkey theme is also part of the offering at Lao Feng Xiang, where vice-president Katherine Xu says a monkey charm that can be attached to the store’s signature knotted bracelet is expected to be popular. The China-based fine jeweller Lao Feng Xiang is a recognizable luxury brand in the Chinese community and its filigree sculptures, jadeite and nephrite, are examples of specialty merchandise. The store’s 24-karat gold jewelry is also expected to attract attention. Xu says this jewelry is sold “the very traditional way”, by weight. Considering recent traffic, she expects shoppers from both the local Chinese community and visitors to Vancouver.
While it is difficult to quantify how many customers are local or international, Patterson references commercial real estate services firm CBRE’s Global Luxury Retail 2015 report, which found 70 per cent of luxury purchases by Chinese citizens are made outside of China, accounting for more than 30 per cent of global luxury purchases.
The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association recognized this trend and Charles Gauthier, president and CEO, says the association held a workshop to help its members better understand cultural differences and tailor marketing to take advantage of this growing market. Gauthier says many downtown Vancouver stores have Mandarin-speaking staff and offer the China UnionPay card to smooth the shopping experience.
An added advantage for shoppers in Vancouver is the authenticity of branded goods and consumers can be sure they are purchasing genuine merchandise, Gauthier says. He also notes that some big luxury brands offer slightly different products in Canada, making those purchased here more attractive.
Patterson also says to be competitive, luxury retailers have to provide more than merchandise; customers are increasingly looking for an “experience” and Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew have both recognized this preference with shopping suites and personal shoppers.
The Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s Nordstrom Shopping Experience is a good fit with the hotel’s philosophy of connecting guests to the experiences of the city, managing director Philip Meyer says. The package includes complimentary breakfast in bed, access to a personal stylist in Nordstrom’s JWN Room and complimentary delivery of purchases, enabling guests to explore Vancouver without carrying shopping bags.
By Kathleen Freimond Courtesy Vancouver Sun