Irene Lau, vice-president of Lane Crawford China. (Photo provided to China Daily)
As the middle class goes affluent, Irene Lau sharpens Lane Crawford's focus on luxury retail in China
Lane Crawford, one of the world's established department stores, is the latest among the brands and chains to be lured by China's growing young middle class.
Irene Lau, vice-president of Lane Crawford China, is betting big on the future of the luxury retail business in the country. She believes the millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) will be the next strong driver of the 167-year-old company's growth.
Lau has an almost instictive sense of where the future is heading. "Millennials love living a quality life ... they like travelling, caring about their individuality, and have different pursuits to match their lifestyle. To woo them, we've brought iconic fashion such as denim, street styles and premium sporty brands to them," she said.
In the beauty segment, she analyzed the latest trends among Chinese consumers and brought in high-end cosmetics and wellness brands such as Tom Ford, Valmont and BKR, which used to be hard to find in China.
Featuring top-notch designers' portfolios covering clothing, cosmetics, fine jewelry, home and lifestyle products, the store now has over 1,000 brands to offer.
Lau joined Lane Crawford in 1988. Ever since, she never ceased to catch up with the next generation.
Combining her taste for fashion and her ability to respond promptly to market trends, she brought a new vitality to the luxury department store.
In 2007, she took lead and built Lane Crawford's new branch in the Chinese mainland. By 2014, four stores were set up in Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu under her leadership.
Now, the company has more than 800 employees in the mainland and posted double-digit growth in sales revenue last year.
In 2015, she started her term as vice-president, proving that the perceived glass ceiling in corporate hierarchy is not unbreakable. She is ambitious to make the 100-year-old chain a go-to destination for China's quality-minded young consumers.
"We are devoted to bring the trendiest products to the consumers as Hong Kong-headquartered Lane Crawford has abundant and exclusive resources and supplies from all over the world," Lau said.
"We have a buyer team covering the world's top fashion shows around the globe. They buy the items using their vast experience, so our customers will always have the most fashionable products as soon as they come out."
Apart from housing well-known designers and brands, Lane Crawford launched the "Created in China" and the "Creative Callout" programs in 2013 and 2015 respectively, to look for more creative and talented designers among the emerging talents.
"In the future, we'll focus on products that are exclusive to Lane Crawford, increase the variety and categories to meet the rising demand from Chinese customers for unique and boutique designers' works," Lau said.
Aware that Chinese millennials' preferences are shifting from expensive products to unique and personal stuff, Lau said she would emphasize customized service by offering personal styling services.
"Our stylists provide personal and professional fashion advice to our customers, and give them suggestions as per their aura," she said. "What's more important is to help them better define themselves and really improve their personal characteristics."
During the consumption upgrade in China, Lau discovered that not only young shoppers but also how they shop have changed. As e-commerce is booming, the last thing she wants to see is Lane Crawford lagging the trends.