As the most dominant player in one of the world’s biggest jewellery markets, Chow Tai Fook is strategically planning a wider expansion in the lower tier cities of China. In an exclusive interview with Solitaire International’s special correspondent Shilpa Dhamija, Chan Sai-Cheong, Managing Director of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group, elaborates on the group’s plans for the next few years and on the most popular jewellery trends in China.
How does Chow Tai Fook plan to expand its network in the Chinese sub-continent in the next 5 years? Will the focus of growth be particularly on the lower-tier regions in China?
We are adopting a disciplined approach in expanding our retail network strategically, taking into consideration market share growth, health of store economics and productivity. Our retail network in Mainland China is expected to reach 7,000 POS by the end of FY2023 (March 2023). We will maintain an annual net openings target of 600 – 800 stores in FY2024 (April 2023 – March 2024) and onwards, subject to market opportunities identified.
We see growth potentials in the lower tier cities in the Mainland, such as the opportunities in the underserved bridal jewellery market. We will further expand into cities and towns in Tier III and below with strong support from our franchise partners.
How many POS does Chow Tai Fook have at the moment in China and worldwide? Which international geographical regions and demography does it plan to target, more, in the next 2 to 3 years?
We have 6,948 POS worldwide as on 30th September, 2022, in which 6,547 POS are in the Mainland. Mainland China remains to be our important arena of retail expansion. Yet, we are also staying well-positioned to capitalise on expansion opportunities in other markets, such as Southeast Asian countries, i.e. Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, which are likely to enjoy a strong post-pandemic economic recovery.
We are committed to investing strategically in our brand and retail network to deepen our reach with existing and new generations of customers, such as millennials.
Chow Tai Fook is already one of the world’s top 10 luxury goods companies by sales. Are there any plans to make Chow Tai Fook a more dominant player or brand in the international market, while it continues to sell products through sub-brands such as Hearts on Fire?
The Group will expand its business strategically and as appropriate, focusing on markets with the strongest local retail growth potential.
Over almost three decades, Hearts on Fire has established a broad presence among North America’s luxury independent and department stores channels where it is renowned for its quality and exceptionally cut diamonds. In 2021 and so far in 2022, the sales of Hearts on Fire in the US reached historical highs. In 2023 and beyond, we are increasing our investment in the Hearts on Fire, a sign of our commitment to, and positive outlook for, the global luxury jewellery market.
How would you define the demography of customers that contribute the most to the sale and growth of the jewellery industry in China?
Currently, Gen Y and Z contributed the most to the sales of the jewellery industry in Mainland China. Yet, millennials’ increasing spending power will fuel the growth of the industry as they mature.
Do you see rapid variations in the preferences of younger buyers when it comes to investing in jewellery? What are the most common trendsattracting millennials/younger buyers according to you? How does Chow Tai Fook identify these trends and cater to them?
Younger consumers are constantly looking for products and services that suit their ever-changing personal preferences and tastes. For instance, they see jewellery as a means of self-expression and buy fashion jewellery to add style to their everyday wear. And increasing number of young consumers are spending on self-gifting, especially during holiday seasons or for celebrating personal milestones.
To cater to the diverse customers’ needs, apart from a wide range of offerings available in both our online and offline touchpoints, we also provide personalised jewellery customisation service to our customers through our digital jewellery customisation platform D-ONE. Empowered by our highly automated production line and digitalised supply chain, we not only deliver simple designs through an express 24-hour customisation service, but also more sophisticated personalisation that provides greater design flexibility. Some of these products can be completed in 10 days, which is half the production time from before.
Also, in Mainland China, gold jewellery is trending among younger consumers. On one hand, with the global economic downturn and turbulent geopolitical situation, they have taken a fancy to the “value-preserving investment” of gold jewellery. On the other hand, the rise of Guochao (“national trend”) has fuelled the success of heritage gold products, such as our Chow Tai Fook • HUÁ Collection, which draws on the traditional heritage of Chinese craftsmanship and culture.
Chow Tai Fook leverages our smart retail technology and data analysis capabilities to keep our finger on the pulse of consumers and stay agile and competitive in the marketplace. We will continue to enhance our product offerings to appeal to younger consumers and give them more choices which suit their styles and needs.
What is the one particular type of jewellery that commands the most interest in the Chinese market? How does Chow Tai Fook cater to that demand?
Chinese consumers always have a fondness of gold which is associated with prosperity and wealth in the Chinese culture. Products that incorporate traditional Chinese cultural elements in the design also commands much interest in the Chinese market.
Chow Tai Fook caters to this demand with our classic-looking Chow Tai Fook • HUÁ Collection which infuses traditional Chinese cultural connotations and techniques into modern gold jewellery pieces. The Chow Tai Fook • HUÁ Collection features design elements inspired by symbols, pictographs, and decorative patterns that carry the meaning of blessing in ancient China. The Collection’s contribution to the gold jewellery and products retail sales value in the Mainland amounted to 40.7% during the 1st half of FY2023 (Apr – Sep 2022).
This year, we launched the new Wonderful Life Collection, which combines gold and T MARK diamonds. Inspired by a Song Dynasty poem written by Wang Zhu, the Wonderful Life Collection celebrates four sources of joy in life, realising a dream, friendship, romantic love, and personal success. The Collection has received an overwhelming response since launch in July 2022.