What were not as stellar throughout the week were sales generated from the tour. While Brobston said a number of attendees have since returned to the store to shop, very few took advantage of private shopping hours after the fashion show and cocktail party on Tuesday evening. Staff at Ralph Lauren’s Madison Avenue flagship were clearly disgruntled by the dozen or so guests who attended a private shopping event where Susie Coulter, president of the brand’s retail stores, gave a personal tour of the store on Wednesday morning.
Ralph Lauren said it was expecting 50 people to come to the event. When that number failed to materialize, staff eventually opened the flagship to the general public, offering excess Champagne and caviar to regular shoppers. The company declined interview requests from WWD on its involvement with the group.
“It was never about how many sales you can bring in for us,” said Affinity’s Lu. “It was about how can [brands] position themselves to a demographic that is starting to travel the world, who are coming into stores and brands don’t know how to reach them. Word of mouth is going to get out. Honestly many of the Chinese did not know who these brands are. No one had heard of J.Mendel. No one had heard of Bergdorf Goodman.”
Which is why many of the designers, particularly those with little, if any, presence in China said they agreed to attend Bergdorf’s event as an opportunity to interface with Chinese, or even American Chinese, consumers with the hope that word would get out about their brands in China.
“It is intriguing for me to understand the prospects of the business [in China] and for them to understand who I am and what I do,” said Khan at the Bergdorf cocktail party. “The media and the press will carry this forward from today’s event that there is a Naeem Khan that exists and who does these kind of things. I just believe that is how I build my brand.”
For the handful of local Chinese who attended, there was a certain degree of surprise that an experience could exist that does not involve tour buses loaded with dozens of Chinese being herded into stores and buying massive amounts of luxury goods.
“I like the fact that they served Champagne in the stores. I have never experienced that before,” said Lina Li, a 36-year-old from Wuhan, a city in inland China, who found out about the trip from a posting on Facebook.
“I think in the future, when I tell my rich Chinese friends, I will have a lot of rich friends who want to come and will be interested in this kind of event,” she said. “They want to feel good. I am going to tell them if you want to experience a new lifestyle and feel privileged and experience some local culture and have someone to take care of you but not like a regular tour, then this will be the best thing to do.”
And there will be lots of opportunity to do it: Affinity is planning similar trips later this year to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.