Kering's Jean-François Palus tells FT Luxury Summit that "’see now, buy now’ is here to stay"
As the keynote speaker on the second and last day of the Financial Times Luxury Summit in Lisbon on 16th May, Jean-François Palus, General Manager of the Kering group, talked about the Chinese market's evolution, the growing influence of digital tools in fashion and the future of 'see now, buy now' on international catwalks.
"'See now, buy now' is here to stay, he told FashionNetwork.com at the end of his speech. It will become the norm. Each label will gradually adapt it to its DNA and vision. In a few years, it will cease to be an issue, and we won't be debating it any longer. It will become a stimulus both for consumers and designers and labels alike."
A few minutes earlier, Jean-François Palus explained to the 400 or so luxury industry professionals gathered in Lisbon how some of the French luxury giant's labels have adopted a new approach to making their collections available in different sales channels. "Instead of delivering 80% of the collection, or even the whole collection, at the start of the season, we are staggering deliveries every two to three weeks. This allows us to facilitate the manufacturing process, make logistics smoother and also sustain customer demand throughout the season. Every two to three weeks, customers can find something new in-store, and this they really like!"
The China issue, as well as the marked slow-down in the growth of luxury goods sales, were of course touched on. According to Jean-François Palus, these problems have taught a valuable lesson. "About China, there is the serious risk of becoming complacent, of seeing it as an easy market, with easy-to-please customers providing easy growth, he said. This was true for us for a time. But Chinese customers have become very sophisticated, very demanding, and we had to change our ways."
According to Kering's GM, it is now clear that "to sell in China, one must speak Chinese," and learn to work in a different fashion. "We wanted to understand, so we became curious, we observed our local competitors closely and learned from them. Then we changed the way we operate in China, and also, crucially, the way we address Chinese customers who consume abroad. For example, we are now active on WeChat, and we tap local celebrities in a different way."
To shed light on such a different market, Jean-François Palus used another example which caused amusement in the audience, talking about the remarkable way Gucci addressed a specifically Chinese recruitment issue. "The manager explained to me that in order to sell to rich young Chinese, you need rich young Chinese, said Palus, so he hired the bored daughter of a local millionaire."
As for digital tools, the Kering General Manager noted how the first step in embracing them requires an understanding which the luxury industry has not yet fully achieved. "I find that luxury professionals are sometimes elitist. If something does not originate from the industry, it is regarded as bad, said Palus. "But now that everything around us is so fast-paced, we must be open to the world, notably the world of digital tools. We must adopt a holistic approach, one in which digital assets are part of a brand's overall narrative. This is true for social media, e-tail and of course for Big Data."
This conviction lead Kering last year to introduce the post of Chief Client Marketing Officer at group level, to make the group's range less product-centric and more focused on customers themselves. "When you want a product, you don't care if it is available in-store or on the web," he emphasised, explaining also that,"in order to attract talented digital specialists, you need large-scale projects.
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