Riding the Asian Boom: Wave of Store Openings Planned by Luxe Brands

The luxury rush to Asia continues, with Burberry opening another flagship in Tokyo last week and plans to open up to 30 stores in China by yearend.

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“We are more confident in our forecast,” Patrick Houel, chief financial officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said last week as the group announced its best sales performance in five quarters. “We had a very good start to the year and we are much more optimistic than we were in December.”

Houel pointed to the more favorable economic and monetary environments worldwide, as well as the improving tourism and the expanding economies in the U.S. and the Far East, as contributing to the strong outlook. Even though sales of the Vuitton brand in Japan in the first quarter were flat, this resulted from increased travel by Japanese tourists to other markets.

“The Japanese luxury market has come back significantly in the last year, driven by the increasing consumer confidence, the rise in the Japanese stock market and the increased spending by Japanese consumers,” said Gilbert W. Harrison, chairman of Financo Inc.

Burberry’s opening last week on Tokyo’s Omotesando Boulevard — which is attracting the world’s luxury brands in increasing numbers — signaled the sector’s growing confidence about the all-important Japanese market, which, in some cases, can account for up to 30 percent of a luxury brand’s sales. Burberry’s chief executive officer, Rose Marie Bravo, and creative director, Christopher Bailey, flew over for the opening, which included a runway show and a dinner. The show was held at the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, the first time it was used for a fashion show, which was Bailey’s idea.

The Omotesando store uses British materials and themes in a contemporary way. The interiors, designed by the company’s store-planning team, include custom-made furniture and furnishings, chrome fireplaces and fitting room walls decorated with Burberry signature buttons and leather buckles. Other decorations include a stainless steel floor-to-ceiling mobile by British artist Miranda Watkins, inverted cherry tree sculptures, and hand-molded and hand-painted resin flower sculptures in vases.

The two-floor store, with 6,000 square feet of floor space, offers Burberry’s two top collections of men’s and women’s wear, Burberry Prorsum and Burberry London, and includes fashion accessories and fragrances.

“Japan is our most important market and Tokyo is a very important city,” Bravo said when explaining why Burberry opened the store. “We felt we very much wanted a Burberry presence in Omotesando, and we wanted to position the brand amongst the other luxury greats.
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