Lunar New Year tourists expected to spend big on Australian fashion


Australian retailers are targeting Chinese tourists for an estimated $500 million spending spree during Lunar New Year.

While Chinese tourists in Australia for Lunar New Year are being targeted in the hope they will spend big on Australian fashion, China Vogue editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung said a 'typical' Chinese consumer no longer exists.

"China's such a big country, we've got the north, the south, the east and the west, and they're all different, " Ms Cheung said.

"Also over the last 10 years because of the boom, you have the top tier and the middle class, and you still have those people who are saving up their whole month's or year's salary to buy their first designer bag.

"And then you have the middle class, you see a lot of tourists, and then you have the top end people who are going everywhere and trying to tailor make clothes," she said.

"So the typical Chinese consumer does not exist anymore. It depends on where that brand is positioned and the kind of people you want to reach."

Therein lies the problem facing Australian retailers, trying to tap into the $150 million Chinese tourists are expected to spend in Australian department stores during Lunar New Year.

Traditionally, holidaying Chinese consumers looked for high end, luxury fashion. Now the trend is for more comfortable wear, according to Ms Cheung.

Australia China Fashion Alliance founder Timothy Coghlan agrees.

"There's still a knowledge gap in the Australian industry on how China operates and ways to do business with China in the fashion sector." 

"There's more than just having the high end brands and they will mix and match other labels as well, so that gives a great opportunity for Australian brands and the Australian designers to tap into the new Chinese consumer," he said.

Mr Coghlan is helping find ways to build cultural connections and "soft power diplomacy" between the two countries, by taking designers and Australian fashion industry representatives into China - and vice versa.

"There's still a knowledge gap in the Australian industry on how China operates and ways to do business with China in the fashion sector, so we're continuing to work on that and build China relevant capabilities," Mr Coghlan said.

"The Chinese tourist - whether that's coming to Australia or globally - is a very big and growing business. Some stats show that sales to Chinese in China is slowing, while sales to Chinese outside of China is growing very quickly. So it is important to tap into that Chinese travelling consumer."

David Jones is one of several department stores doing that.

Group Executive of Merchandise Donna Player said Australia's oldest department store had been advertising on Chinese social media sites, is accepting China's oldest national credit card – UnionPay, and has more than 200 Mandarin-speaking staff.

Chinese language signs are also up for Lunar New Year, and red and gold merchandise is being promoted.

"There will be a dumpling bar here on level seven to celebrate all things Chinese, lion dancers in store," she said.

And for the Year of the Monkey, David Jones is curating a collection of Chinese labels from 16 designers.

"This is not only about attracting the Chinese consumer but also saying to our beautiful Australian consumers that Chinese designers are something they should really take notice of," she said.

Huishan Zhang is one of the visiting Chinese designers.

His clothing is in more than 20 countries, and on his first visit here is keen to break into the Australian market.

"For us to be able to participate in this event is very special," he said.

But Australian designers hoping to break into the Chinese market, the Chinese Vogue editor left this message.

"Collectively you might need to find a bit of a voice that speaks about what it is in Australian fashion that make it special," Ms Cheung said.

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