Mainland Chinese jewellers continue to open new stores at a record pace as the government stimulates domestic consumption.
In the company’s most recently concluded fiscal quarter, i.e. calendar-Q2, China’s largest jeweller Chow Tai Fook said it saw company-wide sales soar 70% year-over-year driven by “buoyant consumer sentiment” in Mainland China and “continued recovery” in Hong Kong and Macau markets. However, perhaps most notably management also said that the company opened 259 net new stores, all in Mainland China, bringing the company-wide total to 4,850 (see below chart).
Chow Tai Fook’s store count has surged in recent years as the company uses a franchising model to leverage “local knowledge” in new Mainland China markets. The strategy allows the company to penetrate smaller but rapidly growing cities colloquially referred to as “Tier III, IV and V” sized cities.
For context, “Tier I” cities are understood to include the top four or five largest cities in the Mainland, e.g. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. “Tier II” is considered to include roughly 30 “larger” cities and “Tier III” approximately 70 emerging cities, and so on. It is estimated that there are now over 170 cities in Mainland China that host a population in excess of one million people, with many more likely on the way according to current growth rates.
Chow Tai Fook has almost doubled its store count over the last five years and almost quadrupled it over the last decade. Other major jewellers in China, including Luk Fook and Chow Sang Sang, also continue to aggressively open new stores. For instance, Luk Fook has plans to open 360 net new stores in the fiscal year ending March 2022, which would boost the company’s store count by over 15% to 2,322 locations.
Mainland China has shown to be the diamond jewellery industry’s strongest consumer market in recent years led by strong domestic luxury consumption which has been boosted by pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions that have essentially halted Chinese tourism spend abroad, especially in primary markets such as Japan, Western Europe and the Americas.
However, even post-pandemic, Chow Tai Fook management has indicated that it expects this trend in domestic consumption growth to continue and even accelerate thanks to government-driven policies aimed at supporting Chinese-buying-at-home. In a recent market update, the company said that it expects “sales in the consumer market in Mainland China (to) surge rapidly in coming years,” referencing the Chinese government’s “Dual Circulation Strategy” and “14th Five-Year Plan.”
The former is a Chinese economic policy that was implemented in early-2020 specifically aimed at stimulating domestic consumption and investment. The latter is the latest in a series of social and economic development initiatives first implemented by the Government in 1953.
With the latest “Five-Year Plan,” which runs from 2021 through 2025, the economic aim is to “stimulate consumption in all sectors” driven by middle-class growth. The Plan includes early-stage initiatives to grow the per capita GDP in China to the equivalent of $30,000 by 2035, which would be almost three times the 2020 level.
For context, per capita GDP in the US, Japan and India (three of the diamond industry’s largest markets) is about $65,000, $40,000 and $2,100, respectively, according to the World Bank. China has a population of about 1.4 billion people; the US, Japan and India, have an estimated 330 million, 125 million and 1.4 billion people, respectively.
Paul Zimnisky, CFA is an independent diamond industry analyst and consultant based in the New York metro area. For regular in-depth analysis of the diamond industry, please consider subscribing to his State of the Diamond Market, a leading monthly industry report; an index of previous issues can be found here. Also, listen to the Paul Zimnisky Diamond Analytics Podcast on iTunes or Spotify for wide-ranging and interesting discussions with prominent guests from around the industry. Paul is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business with a B.S. in finance and he is a CFA charterholder. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @paulzimnisky.