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Expo Lures Luxury Brands to Shanghai

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Manufacturers of luxury fashion and accessory brands are lining up to increase their products' presence in Shanghai to coincide with the opening of Expo 2010, as China's huge consumer market continues to become a magnet for luxury European brands.

Shanghai is experiencing a big increase in luxury-brand stores, mainly in its upscale Huaihai Road shopping area, with many of the openings coinciding with the start of Expo.

Coach recently opened a signature store along Huaihai Road, while Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Cartier and Ermenegildo Zegna will open stores by the end of April. Hermes will join the list in the near future.

The openings are a culmination of a three-year plan on the commercial structure of Middle Huaihai Road in the city's Luwan District. Various other projects are being finalized in the area, known for both its European and Chinese architectural influences.

Buildings in this section of Luwan have three architectural styles: modern commercial, historical 1930s European, and classic Shanghai, the latter embodied in the Xintiandi precinct, an area of upscale restaurants and brand-name boutiques.

"In order to fit the atmosphere of Xintiandi, we want to transform buildings along Huaihai Road and Songshan Road to more commercial and modern structures," said Zhu Hong, deputy director of Luwan District Commerce Commission. "We want to combine international luxury brands with high-end local brands to create a balance along a 2.2 kilometer stretch of Huaihai Road."

The current plan for Luwan district is to complete the commercial upgrade of the eastern section of Huaihai Road before inviting even more luxury brands to set up shop along Huaihai and Songshan roads.

"China is now one of the most important markets for all luxury brands. With the current development of Huaihai Road, we will see a traditional shopping district transformed into a flagship luxury location," said Sylvia Au Yeung, group director in China of Tiffany & Co. "We are confident that the development will bring a vibrant atmosphere to the neighborhood and a wonderful compliment to the district."

Tiffany & Co has 10 stores across China. It opened its third store in Shanghai on Huaihai Road on Tuesday. It will launch its fourth Shanghai store in May at the IFC Mall in the Pudong District.

To cash in on both Expo Shanghai 2010 and luxury-brand mania in China, Chanel has launched an Expo collection, which will be available worldwide beginning in May. The collection offers accessories and costume jewelry inspired by "China and its many legends," according to the company. Other luxury brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Swatch, Gucci and Prada also have created limited edition Expo-themed products.

All this activity in the luxury-brand sector in China is indicative of the growing demand for such products in the country.

According to official figures, in 2008, the number of wealthy households in China reached 1.6 million. There will be more than 4 million wealthy households by 2015, putting the country fourth worldwide in the category, behind the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom.

(China Daily April 28, 2010)

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