Retail experience report from EHI Retail Institute │Chinese Fine Living in Shanghai " Shang Xia"
Ute Holtmann, EHI Retail Institute, reports on her retail experiences in China
You can get anything you want in China. Megacities like Shanghai, in particular, offer an exciting variety of shopping experiences and fuel the classic stereotype in which everything in China is colorful, tacky and cheap.
Having said that, it also shows how increased buying power creates a market for high-quality, luxurious products. “Chinese manufacturers increasingly produce quality products and take you by surprise with innovative design. ‘Made in China‘ is turning into a seal of quality,“ the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung recently proclaimed.
(Elke Moebius and Ute Holtmann during their store visit)
Shang Xia nearly perfectly represents the new Chinese culture and a new Chinese poise. It represents a Chinese luxury brand or so-called “contemporary lifestyle brand,“as staff member Sara Lin describes. Luxurious is exactly the right term considering the most precious materials, finest manufacturing processes, and premium pricing. It was founded in 2007 by Chinese designer Jiang Qiong together with Hermès.
In 2010, the Maison Shanghai opened in the hip Middle Huai Hai Road; another store followed in Beijing in 2012 and yet another in Paris the following year. Within the 14,500 square feet, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma created a setting in Shanghai where retail, culture, and art perfectly complement one another. Shang Xia exclusively sells premium and durable, often handcrafted products which are closely connected with Shang Xia’s philosophy of ”Take it and keep it for the next generation“. Many of the exclusive furniture, tea sets crafted with delicate china or elaborately painted silk scarves were handcrafted with collaborations with artists. They represent premium quality and meet even the highest of expectations ,also clearly reflected in the price.
The expression of exclusivity is apparent when you first enter the store. At Shang Xia Maison Shanghai located along the popular Middle Huai Hai Road, every customer is greeted immediately at the entrance. The store was designed by Jiang Qiong, using premium and unique materials - the walls and ceilings are covered with meshed white cloth and create a cozy ambiance. Customers feel as if they are “in a cloud“. The walls are sporadically interspersed with high-quality shelving and clothing racks which create one harmonious unit with the discreet display cases. Customers receive full attention and feel welcome and comfortable, also receiving a cup of tea from a friendly staff member dressed in a discreet uniform.
Tea, one of the oldest pieces of Chinese culture, also inspires one of the most fundamental motifs in Shang Xia’s culture. Along with the delicately handcrafted tea sets, authentic tea ceremonies are held which function to promote an appreciation for the products in a unique, almost spiritual atmosphere; an integral part of the concept – thus making the high prices seem justified. Staff member Sara Lin perfectly sums up the Shang Xia experience by stating, ”if you cannot see the difference between handmade and industrial, I cannot tell you.”