Fashion represents 21% of Italian exports to China. A market considered advantageous for big brands and difficult (if not impossible) for Italian SMEs, to which the “made in Italy product” is not enough. There are many obstacles. For example: the territorial vastness, the high degree of digitisation required, and the need to have a local partner. Obstacles that could preclude access to what will be an increasingly important market in the future. The webinar “Scenario and Perspectives for Italian Companies in the Fashion Sector” tried to explain how to break through China. Organised by the Embassy of Italy in Beijing (in collaboration with Confindustria Moda, the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China and with the support of ICE), the event offered some direct experiences.
Here they are.
How to break through China
Karl Schlecht, Thierry Rabotin (footwear)
“To get results in China, the first thing is to be very patient. Then, you need a desire to listen and a lot of time. It is difficult not to be disappointed with the Chinese market during the first approaches. For SMEs, the key is to concentrate on a focus and find the right partner. Covid cost us 18 months of growth. It is not easy to return to investing in this time of declining sales following the pandemic. The few resources we have available will end up on digital”.
Attilio Briccola, Bric’s (leather goods)
“The first mistake that is usually made is to consider China as if it were Japan or Korea. I think that a traditional approach through a distributor is old: it is necessary to shorten the supply chain in order to be closer to the consumer. Even the model with we used to develop in the USA cannot be replicated in China, where we have 25 stores. Online sales? Yes, but it’s one thing to open a shop on Tmall, another one is to be seen physically. The future? The certainties we had vanished with the pandemic, the only certainty is that China will become increasingly important”.
Giorgio Guida, Numero Otto (furs)
“We updated the product to target an audience under 35. We worked with influencers, including Chiara Ferragni, and thus we entered the Beijing market. Then we started a collaboration with a Chinese company that sells on Tmall, and which proved to be spot on. You have to go to China with clear ideas, and be aware that marketing is more important than product”.
Umberto Temporini, Etro (clothing)
“The Chinese market, and therefore the way to approach it, must be divided according to regions and according to cities. In the main ones, a local presence is needed and not just distributors that can be valid for second-level cities. The most important question to ask is: who we want to be on the Chinese market? Investments need to be defined, giving priority to brand awareness and the digital marketing team”.