Market study: Agnès B in China

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Agnès B. opened her first shop on Rue du Jour in Paris in 1975. Since then, she has designed clothing for men, women, and children that reflects the spirit of the age by creating a timeless wardrobe that can easily adapt to every personality. Today, Agnès B. continues to design each collection that bears her name, including accessories, watches, jewelry, and sunglasses. The company has more than one hundred shops throughout the world. As a family and civic enterprise, Agnès B. tries as much as possible to keep her production in France. The group mainly designs and sells casual clothing and cosmetics through a network of shops and in department stores. It also operates a few restaurants and flower shops in Asia, which contribute to the distinctive atmosphere of its retail outlets.

Company strategy

Agnès B. has strong brand presence with over 200 boutiques spread over three continents in 12 countries and an exclusive online store which it uses to sell select merchandise. The brand has diversified into footwear, fragrances and eye-wear to make it a complete urban lifestyle brand. In addition, it formed a green committee to carry out its many green initiatives such as using recycled materials for its products and packaging. The brand also undertakes several CSR initiatives for fighting AIDS with initiatives like Help Yourself which have been successful.

Despite these successful campaigns, Agnès B. also has some weaknesses in terms of its business operations. It has not indulged in any advertisements and promotions unlike its competitors, such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Prada. Also, it has limited presence in emerging economies that present huge potential. The brand faces threats from the highly fragmented fashion industry where there is high bargaining power for buyers and low brand loyalty. These facts are the main reason why few people in China have heard of the brand. Now, many market opportunities have presented themselves in front of Agnès B. The brand can concentrate on new emerging markets such as India and China. With its wide range of products and services, it can also look forward to offering new retail formats.

Plans to enter Asia

In an interview in 2009, Agnès B.’s management in Asia outlined plans to double the number of Agnès B.’s 10,000-to-15,000-square-foot stores in China, seven stores at the time. It also said that up to 20% of sales in Hong Kong were made to mainland Chinese customers. The group now operates 12 shops on the mainland, in addition to the 23 it has in Hong Kong (where it has a presence in pretty much all of the territory’s major shopping centers, including IFC Mall in Central), with 21 in Taiwan and one in Macau.

The bigger picture for the group remains unclear, and it is still tightly controlled by its founder. However, its Paris-based CMC SAS subsidiary generated an operating turnover of about $90 million equivalent, according to a 2009 filing. The subsidiary employs about 16% of the group’s total staff, and looks after the French network and exports. International end-consumer sales are made under separate companies. Hong Kong-listed Ports Design Ltd. would appear to be a reasonable, if perhaps larger, proxy. It had a 2009 turnover of about $235 million, operates 353 stores and has a market capitalization of around $1.4 billion.

Daxue Consulting China Market Study

Sources:

Picture Source: Agnès B.

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