Shoppers in Hong Kong. (Photo/Xinhua)
Poor service received at luxury goods retailers is the key complaint among mainland Chinese shoppers and the main factor turning them away from stores in their home country. As a result, such businesses are seeing a decline in sales, a new report says.
Citing findings from global management consulting firm Bain, the report says mainland Chinese consumers' 2012 spending on luxury goods overseas grew 31%, compared to a 7% drop in the purchase of such items back home.
According to Xiao Changming, a distributor for French luxury house Givenchy and Italian label Cavalli, many retailers have been disappointed by their lackluster business in the first three quarters of the year.
Satisfactory after-sales service and the "fee gift culture" valued by mainland Chinese are two areas in which retailers in the country need to work harder before they can satisfy shoppers, the report suggests.
Complaints from mainlanders are mainly about what they call retailers' "eight cardinal sins," which include hard-to-find repair centers, the long repair times and exorbitant charges for repairs, said the report.
Customers who bought goods from certain luxury brand stores abroad are often told by sale clerks at the retailers' China stores to return to the place of purchase for after-sales service.
Shoppers also frequently complain about the retailers' onerous return polices, unintelligible user manuals, promises that are almost impossible to fulfill, an apparent class consciousness, and the increasingly curtailed discount season.
According to the report, mainland Chinese are impressed by the way they are treated at luxury brand stores in places like Italy and France.
"The sales representatives don’t simply push or sell their products. They explain the historical and cultural background of their brand names in such an enjoyable way," a shopper who called herself Li and who has shopped at Louis Vuitton in Paris was quoted as saying.
"Many consumers want to buy not just goods, but also a kind of refinement and cultivation," she continued.
But Xiao contends mainland retailers are sometimes justified in their reluctance to offer after-sales service and honor global warranties. "Most luxury stores overseas are directly owned and operated by the band names, while some mainland luxury goods stores get their supplies through distributors. Of course, they don't want to be left holding the bag and incur additional costs while foreign companies that have pocketed the money remain beyond the reach of complaining customers." he said.
According to Xiao, however, global warranties from "first-tier" brand names are mostly honored everywhere, including China.