All the rage: Prada is on course for success in China as more and more of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens are willing and able to afford a certain level of luxury
Photos: iStock / samxmeg
Rong Zhai stands in the center of Shanghai, sheltered by the shade of trees whose overhanging branches virtually obscure the view of the nearby skyscrapers. The historic mansion is almost 100 years old – and is now called Prada Rong Zhai. In cooperation with the government of this megacity, the luxury fashion brand undertook an extensive preservation campaign to restore the building to its former grandeur and now uses the mansion for events. The first of these was a prestigious fashion show for which DB Schenker handled the entire logistics. It was by no means the company’s first assignment on behalf of the Milan-based fashion house: DB Schenker is Prada’s exclusive logistics provider in China.
Just as elsewhere around the world, the name Prada in China is synonymous with exclusivity. And yet sales are rising at a steady rate. “China’s emerging middle class plays an increasingly important role as far as the demand for luxury goods is concerned,” says Annie Zhou, who as Deputy General Manager eCommerce/Vertical Market & Key Accounts at DB Schenker was responsible for liaising with the Italians until the end of 2017.
Annie Zhou says the most popular goods in the Prada collection are handbags, shoes, perfumes and fashion accessories, which ultimately reflects the changes taking place in the composition of the buying public. “For a long time, the luxury goods market here in China was dominated by the male segment,” the manager explains. “Now there’s a more prominent female element, mainly due to the increasing purchasing power of women.”
A clear indication of the brand’s surge in popularity is the fact that meanwhile both Prada and its company brand Miu Miu operate a total of more than 70 boutiques and stores in China – the figure has doubled in just four years. Apart from major cities on China’s eastern coast, the luxury fashion house has also long since established itself in the heartland, for example, in Chengdu. The city, which is located some 2,000 kilometers to the west of Shanghai, has a population of tens of millions. And more and more of its residents are able and willing to spend their money on high-quality and high-cost luxury goods.
The vast distances that need to be covered in this huge country are an everyday occurrence for the team at DB Schenker. The logistics experts are responsible for ensuring that the much sought-after products are transported to the boutiques quickly, reliably and in plentiful amounts. The starting point for deliveries is a cross-docking hub at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai. Consignments destined for short distances, such as Prada’s flagship store in the center of the metropolis, are dispatched by truck. Primarily, though, distribution within China is handled via airfreight. Otherwise, the customer’s specified lead times of between 24 and 48 hours would hardly be manageable in many cases.
“In terms of security, aircraft are simply the transportation method of choice,” says Annie Zhou. As DB Schenker in China has been working on behalf of the Italian fashion house since 2008, the team understands precisely what is required when warehousing and transporting the label’s high-end goods.
Originally, it was the expertise shown by their colleagues in Italy when handling luxury goods that convinced their compatriots at Prada to collaborate with DB Schenker. This comes as no surprise, after all the Mediterranean country is home to numerous of the world’s top labels.
To this day, DB Schenker in Italy is responsible for importing the luxury goods. The distance from there to Shanghai is around 9,000 kilometers, making airfreight a dominating factor in transport. “The bulk of consignments are imported by air,” says Annie Zhou. “Only around ten percent of cargo is shipped to China as ocean freight, and, for the most part, this consists mainly of so-called visual materials like decorative articles and mannequins for the display windows and boutiques.”
Apart from day-to-day operations, DB Schenker in China also provides logistical services for trade fairs and events – most recently at the fashion show in Prada Rong Zhai for the presentation of the Prada 2018 Resort collection. “We delivered all the fashion items, equipment and furniture needed for the show from Prada’s cross-docking hub,” says Annie Zhou.
The team was not only responsible for moving all items into the venue and positioning them, right up to setting up the catwalk, but also handled the disassembly and removal of all equipment and goods at the end of the show. “Events like that are always exciting. And they give us a chance to demonstrate just how quickly and flexibly we work – something that might not always be so noticeable in day-to-day life.”
Pulling out all the stops: DB Schenker is Prada’s exclusive logistics provider in China and supports the luxury fashion house during trade fairs and events – as seen here at a prestigious fashion show
Photos: David Høgsholt
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