Milan quietly gears up for return of big-spending Chinese tourists
Some stores in via Montenapoleone, the heart of Milan's most exclusive shopping area, are displaying clothes and accessories dedicated to the Lunar New Year after two years disrupted by the pandemic even though Chinese tourists are yet to return in big numbers.
Clothing and backdrops featuring meadow and rabbit motifs have appeared in the windows of stores such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Loewe and watchmaker Hublot on and around the elegant street as China prepares to usher in the Year of the Rabbit.
Other shops have opted to display small capsule collections of essential fashion items with the same theme more discreetly inside their stores.
Upmarket department store La Rinascente has taken the latter approach, showcasing for example a collection from Italian luxury brand Gucci, and also giving prominence to spirits much loved by Asian customers on its shelves.
Mariella Elia, chief financial officer for La Rinascente, says Milan has seen a return of Chinese business travellers since last autumn and the group, which also has stores in other cities including Rome, is looking forward to a bigger upturn.
"We expect a return to pre-pandemic levels from the third quarter of 2023, above all with regards to Chinese tourists who for us have always been an important group of customers," Elia said.
With travel curtailed, spending by Chinese nationals had dropped from 33% of the global personal luxury goods market in 2019 to as little as 17% last year, according to estimates from consultancy Bain.
Malls from Macau to Bangkok are aiming to lure Chinese holiday shoppers with red lantern displays, special dances and discounts.
In early 2020, before the pandemic changed everything, La Rinascente had a bright red window display to mark the Lunar New Year and took out adverts in China. They expect to resume that advertising next year.