As we see small glimmers of hope in declining infection rates, could it be too soon to say business as usual? Perhaps not in Guangzhou, where a Hermès flagship store managed to make 19 million renminbi (which is roughly US$2.7 million) on the day it reopened, according to WWD.
Located at the upscale Taikoo Hui Guanzhou shopping mall, the boutique opened its doors on Saturday, 11 April after a long Covid-19 caused hiatus. Spanning some 5,500 square feet, the store offered clothes, homeware and leather bags from the French maison, including a rare, diamond-studded Himalayan Birkin. Upon opening, these offerings were quickly snatched up on the same day by the fashion brand’s affluent VIP clientele, many of whom came from Guangdong, China’s richest province.
The Hermes flagship is just one of many luxury stores in China that were forced to close early this year, when the virus began to spread outside Wuhan. China has since been recovering steadily from the crisis. As quarantine and lockdown measures are being eased across the country, luxury shoppers are finding their way back to the streets. This is especially true in Guangzhou, one of China’s major commercial and trading centres.
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The Birkin Bag, an open secret. It’s 1984. On a Paris-London flight, a woman is seated beside a man. Perfect strangers. Once in the air, she searches through a shopping bag in the locker above her. Disaster! The contents fall out all around. The man helps her pick everything up. Speaking French with a strong English accent, she complains that she can’t find a bag to hold all her stuff. The man is Jean-Louis Dumas, the artistic director of Hermès. Pure chance put them together. They chat, he sketches. Listening to her wish list he designs a bag, before they land, that will take Paris by storm. Named for that same young woman, a certain Jane… Birkin. #Iconicbyaccident #Innovationinthemaking #Timelessstar #BirkinBag #Hermes
The exorbitant sales figure mentioned above isn’t just an impressive feat for Hermès — it’s also possibly the largest revenue ever made in one day for any single boutique in China, according to multiple sources. At a time where many luxury fashion brands have seen stocks and sales fall rapidly in light of the coronavirus outbreak, this could be a sign of hope for the industry, despite its growing apprehension of the future economic landscape.
However, while images of Chinese shoppers forming long queues outside stores may suggest a return to normal in a post-COVID-19 world, they also nod to shoppers’ newfound habit of “revenge buying“. The term refers to how consumers, fresh out of quarantine and starved of shopping, will overcompensate by spending more money than usual. Whether the excessive shopping counts as a valid form of self-pampering, or is simply an act both frivolous and tone-deaf, is currently a topic of debate on the Chinese social media platform, Weibo.
If anything, Hermes’ latest achievement spells out the endless appeal of the French luxury brand’s signature Birkin bag. To quote Elizabeth Wurtzel, who defended her purchase of a Birkin during the Great Recession: “If I had spent the money on a mutual fund from T. Rowe Price, I might well have panicked and lost it during the financial crisis of 2008, and I would never have had the pleasure of schlepping my stuff on the IRT in Hermes.”