Luxury items 

“A small concrete happiness”: why luxury brands in China love coffee

Ask any fashionista in China about the latest buzz in the field, and chances are she’ll give the same answer: Maison Margiela coffee shop, which unveiled its first global branch in Chengdu in June before expand an ephemeral presence in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Located in Chengdu’s luxury shopping district, Taikoo Li, the cafe is part of Maison Margiela’s new flagship building which is divided into a store, a lifestyle showroom and an exhibition space. Visitors will find all the photo-worthy details they need to craft the perfect social media post: large branded coffee mug fixtures, sleek interior decor that reflects the brand’s minimalist aesthetic, and cakes in the shape of his signature Tabi boot and four corners. logo stitching. Since opening in June, the cafe has racked up more than 7,000 messages on Xiaohongshu and long queues that have often exhausted the store’s receipt printing papers, as employees told the local newspaper. The Bund.

Maison Margiela inaugurated its first global café at the Taikoo Li shopping center in Chengdu in June. Photo: Maison Margiela

“Maison Margiela has really taken the brand experience to a new level,” says Qirui Chen, a Chengdu-based freelance fashion journalist. “Coffee cup installations against traditional Chengdu architecture are instant hits on social media. But on top of that, they’ve curated every detail of the cafe to be Margiela-esque. It has become the hottest hub for local creatives and fashionistas. Prior to this coffee venture, the group collaborated with hip local coffee chain Seesaw in 2020 on a pop-up to promote its “Coffee Break” flavor.

Margiela’s coffee business may not be a groundbreaking novelty in the luxury and fashion playbook — but its massive popularity in China today has signaled a new direction in which the industry can steer with the country’s recession-weary consumers.

Other luxury lines have accelerated the opening of branded cafes in China’s most ambitious shopping districts this year. In April, Cartier installed its first tea room in its newly refurbished Chengdu flagship, serving coffee, tea and desserts to VIP customers in the area. Additionally, Ralph Lauren opened the first Ralph’s Bar in the APAC region in Chengdu. And in October, Dior is set to launch two Dior cafes in Chengdu and Shanghai, according to local sources.

The first Ralph’s Bar landed in Chengdu’s Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li shopping mall in June. Photo: Ralph Lauren

“With the slowing economy and massive layoffs in high-growth sectors making headlines today, many young professionals are changing their consumption habits from luxury to food and drink. They are looking for a small concrete happiness,” says Chen.

The café + restaurant formula has proven itself in luxury lifestyle extension models, but what is new here is the role that these cafés play in the brands’ metropolitan strategies. According Bath, homes should expect a reduced pace of growth in 2022 due to lower spending in China amid a persistent zero COVID policy. In the face of declining consumer confidence and weakening demand, selling $5 (RMB 35) cappuccinos and $10 (RMB 70) cakes is proving to be an effective way to bring foot traffic back into companies’ physical stores and engage with a wide range of brand enthusiasts.

The rise of the Chinese coffee market also offers the perfect opportunity for luxury brands to democratize brand codes into a premium yet still socially shareable experience. According to a report According to local research firm Qianzhan, coffee consumption in China has grown at an average rate of 15% over the past five years, outpacing the global average growth of 2%. The average consumption of Chinese coffee has also increased, from six cups per year in 2018 to more than 10 cups in 2022. Younger urban generations no longer see coffee as the occasional treat that it was a few years ago, but as a lifestyle staple to be savored during typical work. daytime.

Domestic luxury resale stores were among the first to seize this opportunity to tap into the young consumer. Over the past year, some of China’s most famous luxury resale names, including Rea Vintage in Hangzhou and Shenglan Vintage in Chongqing, have begun serving “luxury lady” latte art emblazoned with the logos of major brands. After shopping, customers enjoyed an extra photo op by ordering a latte painted with Chanel’s Double C logo and an LV trunk cupcake.

On Xiaohongshu, users post about cafe experiences with the “luxury lady” logo offered by local luxury retailers. Photo: screenshot by Xiaohongshu

On Xiaohongshu, more than 14,000 posts under the hashtag “中古店咖啡” (Vintage Store Luxury Coffee) detail the different logo coffee experiences of Chinese luxury retailers, helping to reinforce coffee’s association with lifestyles. ambitious. establish a coffee-centric social currency.

With China stagnating and a global slowdown, the country’s Gen Z consumers will increasingly demand entry-level brand experiences that deliver storytelling and comfort. For houses, this means going beyond product desirability to deliver novelty and using hyperlocal touchpoints to meet consumers who still can’t travel overseas due to climate change. travel ban. With the coffee and tea logo, a new wave of brand experiences is only heating up.

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