"The development over the past 15 years has been spectacular [in China]," LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault told WWD. "If the economy continues at the same rate, 25 years from now, China will be the greatest global economic power."
Luxury isn't alone in banking on China's growth. Fast-fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz landed in the country with a splash in April as it opened its first store in Shanghai. The Swedish firm had opened its first unit in Hong Kong a month earlier. Both stores quickly surpassed H&M's expectations for sales. Rival cheap-chic chain Zara also has been expanding in China.
H&M plans to open its first store in Japan next year: a 15,000-square-foot shop in Tokyo's Harajuku shopping district.
"Japan is an exciting market for H&M, with fashion-conscious consumers with great spending power," said H&M ceo Rolf Eriksen. "We see great opportunities for expansion in this part of the world."
Conversely, Japanese fast-fashion firms see opportunities for growth in Europe and America.
Japan's Uniqlo chain, known for its basic apparel, plans to open a store in Paris next year, followed by another in Milan. Uniqlo opened a Manhattan flagship last year and operates stores in the U.K.
British retailer Topshop is making its own global gambit. Sir Philip Green, the chain's owner, said the shop he plans to open in Manhattan in September will presage another two stores in the city, as well as flagships on the West Coast and in cities including Las Vegas, Miami and Boston. "We are now equipped — and ready — to move the brand on, worldwide," said Green, adding that he's angling to expand Topshop in Paris, Milan, India and elsewhere, too.
South Korea's Who.A.U. brand voiced its own ambitious global rollout plans, starting with the U.S. Part of the $4 billion E-Land apparel conglomerate, the brand wants to open as many as 50 stores over the next five years.