ECONOMY

Danish luxury brands set out plans for China and Asia expansion

Designer brands unveil their wares in Hong Kong, with plans for a big mainland expansion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 3:26am
 

Danish deluxe brands Georg Jensen and Bang & Olufsen have big expansion plans in China and the rest of Asia, banking on the rapid growth of wealth in the region.

The chief executives of the two companies are among the 30 Danish firms that took part in a Business of Design Week exhibition in Wan Chai this week.

Chinese and other Asian customers have to a large extent kept Danish designer brands afloat while they have been struggling amid the euro-zone crisis.

Asia, for example, generated 42 per cent of Georg Jensen's worldwide business last year. President and chief executive Ulrik Garde Due said the company has five shops in Hong Kong and several in Taiwan, Japan and Australia. It doesn't have a shop on the mainland yet. Garde Due said it reaches rich mainlanders through its outlets in Hong Kong.

"In Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Australia are all very important markets for us," Garde Due told the Post on the sidelines of the exhibition, where it displayed its signature silver tableware, watches and jewellery.

Bahrain-based asset manager Investcorp last month said it was buying Georg Jensen from private-equity firm Axcel Capital Partners for US$140 million.

Garde Due said the new owner would support the firm's expansion in Asia and especially China, where rising wealth has triggered a demand for luxury items. "Many Asian and Chinese customers appreciate our authentic handcraft," he said.

Bang & Olufsen, which makes high-end audio and video products, is also betting big on China. Last year it moved its Asia headquarters from Singapore to Shanghai.

Lars Hardboe Galsgaard, Bang & Olufsen's managing director of Greater China and Korea, said the company now has five shops in Hong Kong, one in Macau and 30 on the mainland.

Bang & Olufsen changed its distributorship model in January and now directly operates its shops in Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland, rather than operating through franchises.

"We have noticed there's a greater demand for high-quality audio and video products among the Chinese. The prospects in this region are huge," he told the Post, adding that though this market segment doesn't represent a substantial portion of the group's overall volume at present, it will catch up with the US and European markets in the long run.

The firm has tailor-made limited editions of speakers specifically for mainland customers.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition, the Crown Prince of Denmark said Danish companies were ideally placed to go global as many of the nation's brands have unique designs and craftsmanship.

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