Earlier this year, photos of a new Louis Vuitton store in Chengdu’s historic Taikoo Li shopping district went viral due to an enormous fluffy tiger tail weaving through the three-story building. Across the lane, the same company has just opened a restaurant, its courtyard entrance adorned with larger-than-life coloured panda figurines and hot air balloons.
The store and restaurant aren’t a chain of kids’ paraphernalia or a playhouse, but Louis Vuitton’s beautifully orchestrated flagship in the Sichuan provincial capital. Like much of what Louis Vuitton does in China, it has been very well considered and provides valuable lessons for luxury and other international brands on how to connect with Chinese consumers.
Dubbed ‘The Hall’, the opening is Louis Vuitton’s first restaurant in China. While most international brands open their first China location in Shanghai or Beijing, Louis Vuitton has opted for the tier 1.5 city of 21 million people. Unlike consumers in tier 1 cities, who are bombarded with China-first openings, those in Chengdu are a little less apathetic to such events.
Source: Louis Vuitton
Chengdu’s lower cost of living also allows the appreciative consumers to have more cash to burn on the finer things in life. This is evident at the Gucci flagship in Chengdu, which was the highest-revenue store worldwide in 2021. Many Chinese also look to Chengdu as setting trends; from LGBT+ culture , to Chinese hip hop, and a host of other music genres.
Louis Vuitton’s bistro-style restaurant reinforces the brand’s proud European heritage while harnessing local Chengdu-specific tastes and preferences. Its Michelin-star chef created a seasonal menu boasting classic French and Mediterranean dishes, while incorporating local flavours and products including Sichuan truffle and Ossetra caviar sourced from mountainous Ya’an in west Sichuan.
The European-designed, localised fare doesn’t stop with the cuisine, with furniture and objects from the luxury house’s Objets Nomades collection. Spanning two floors, the centrepiece of the restaurant is the Swiss-designed Sichuan hotpot-shaped chandelier, taking centrestage across the two floors of the restaurant.
Chinese consumers love experiential shopping, and dining often plays a big part in that. This is why New Retail pioneer Hema made eating-in a big part of its strategy and Chinese malls have long dedicated as much as half of their retail space to food and beverage.
Source: Louis Vuitton
Engaging shopping experiences such as dining provide an alluring draw to shoppers and, done well, create opportunities to build buzz online – Chinese consumers love to share their food on social media. It also gives consumers another reason to visit in person, rather than opting for the more promiscuous art of online shopping.
Yet experiential brick-and-mortar shopping in China isn’t about pulling people away from their screens, it’s about integrating devices to appeal to the big spending Millennials and Gen-Zers. On the morning of the restaurant opening, Louis Vuitton launched an interactive WeChat mini-program game called ‘Mah Jump’, drawing on Chengdu’s mahjong culture and featuring Chengdu-born rapper Ma Siwea as background music.
Louis Vuitton’s strategy has clearly hit the mark. The restaurant is reportedly booked out for six months. Obviously, it is supported by one of the most aspirational brands in China, but providing an experience, and localising it to Chinese and regional tastes, while retaining the foreign DNA that makes a brand special, provides important lessons for any imported brand in China. It doesn’t have to be on a Louis Vuitton scale, but can be applied across brands of all sizes and categories.
Source: China Skinny