Year of the Horse brings luxury shops a lot of luck
RETAILERS are poised to take full advantage of the Chinese 'Year of the Horse' to woo valuable, luxury-brand shoppers.
The Asian luxury retail phenomenon is set to soar this year as travel patterns see shoppers fly from east to west. Luxury items are associated with status and prestige and affluent shoppers are looking increasingly to Europe – and to Ireland for exclusivity and uniqueness.
The Chinese New Year and the arrival of the 'Year of the Horse' has particular resonances with Ireland because of our equestrian reputation and horse industry here, according to Stephen Sealey, MD of Brown Thomas, who admits he is "obsessed with boosting Dublin as a tourism destination".
"The Chinese market for us is small but significant. It is growing and, in what is a difficult retail market, every percentage helps," he told the Irish Independent.
Brown Thomas in Grafton Street today kicks off a two-week event which has many 'horsey' connections from a €35,000 bespoke crystal horse statue to an exclusive Hermes scarf, Gucci stirrup handbag and Chinese New Year promotions from Burberry, Louboutin and By Kilian fragrances. Over 20 staff speak Mandarin or Cantonese and, with new flights from the Middle East and an increase in Russian visitors, over 27 languages are spoken by its retail staff. The first tourism manager takes up the job next month. Opportunities for a spike in sales in February comes not just from Chinese here but also from relatives visiting for 'Year of the Horse' celebrations. Top of the shopping lists are 'high viz' luxury-brand accessories such as handbags.
Ruby Zong, who came to Ireland 10 years ago to study English and now has a Masters in Finance, has experience in retailing for luxury brand Burberry.
While red is regarded as a lucky colour in China, she said it is especially lucky for people born in the 'Year of the Horse', which comes around every 12 years.
Maria McGovern, director of Kildare Village, said the visa waiver that allows Chinese visitors travel here from the UK was another important factor in facilitating the shopper from China.