It’s just over 30 days until the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, the world’s largest fine jewellery trade fair, opens to the public. While there are some naysayers when it comes to the growth of the jewellery and watch industry in China and Asia, there remains keen interest in tapping the public’s growing wealth and hunger for these products.
The latest example of companies expanding in this market comes from French holding company, Kering. The multinational, which owns luxury, lifestyle and sports apparel and accessories brands, recently announced that it acquired the Ulysse Nardin watch brand, one of the few remaining true independent Swiss luxury watchmakers.
Kering (formerly known as PPR) hasn’t been shy about upping its stakes in the “hard luxuries” category (jewellery and watches). Nor has it been shy about expanding into China and Asia.
Qeelin Dragon and Phoenix ring (with the phoenix head shown)
made of 18k yellow gold, diamond pavé and rubies.
François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement that Ulysse Nardin will reinforce its growing jewellery watch division, which consists of Boucheron, Dodo, Girard-Perregaux, JeanRichard, Pomellato and Qeelin. Three brands (Italian jewellers Pomellato and Dodo; and Hong Kong jeweller Qeelin) were acquired by Kering within the past two years.
“We have great ambitions for (Ulysse Nardin) and we will help it continue its international expansion whilst staying faithful to its roots and its identity,” Pinault said following the acquisition announcement.
“Joining Kering is an opportunity for Ulysse Nardin,” added Chai Schnyder president of Ulysse Nardin Board of Directors. “It will allow the brand to carry on with its international expansion and continue to innovate, while assuring the long-term future of its knowledge and expertise and communiqué.”
Make no mistake; what both companies mean by expansion is rapidly moving into China and Asia.
The Asian market and hard luxuries has been Kering’s target for some time and Pinault has made no secret of it. In 2012, he said that for 50 years the growth in population and wealth in the world (800 million consumers) was centred in the U.S. and Japan. However, in 2006 the company identified that economic growth has shifted to emerging markets—particularly China, India, Brazil, and more recently, Indonesia—bringing 3 billion consumers to the worldwide market, and that this trend will continue.
“It means that in the next 50 years the growth is amazing,” Pinault said. “We don’t have any idea what it will be. We are always referring to the past but it’s no use. We cannot compare 3 billion people with more and more purchasing power to 800 million in the past… The question is what should we do to take advantage of those opportunities of growth?”
It seems to me that the company knows exactly what it’s doing.