The world's leading luxury brand, Louis Vuitton Malletier, will open three new stores in China this year, company officials said in Beijing recently.
The stores will be located in Chengdu, Wenzhou and Shenyang. "Wenzhou and Shenyang are new cities for us," said Christopher Zanardi-Landi, chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton China.
He told China Daily that the firm plans to expand to an average of two new cities each year in the country.
The company has seen big increases both in the nation's buying power and the number of people who can afford to buy its products. Its Chinese customers have already become the firm's third-largest consumer group in the world, after Japan and the United States, Zanardi-Landi said during the re-opening ceremony of the company's oldest store in China.
The store was first opened at Beijing's Peninsula Palace Hotel in 1992. It has been refurbished twice over the past 14 years; the store's new look aims to provide a more luxurious and spacious shopping experience for customers, with a greater range of products.
The company gave no sales figures, but Louis Vuitton executives said its China operations have been profitable since 1992.
"We have never lost any money in any store in China," Zanardi-Landi said.
"We have been giving huge attention to the market, and more and more Chinese customers are able to see and appreciate the detail of Louis Vuitton products and services."
Zanardi-Landi added that the company aims to expand further in the future.
"We want to make sure that the stores we have now are achieving their best. On top of that, we will look for other investment opportunities," he said.
Zanardi-Landi also said the firm has put major effort into fighting counterfeits. "We have zero tolerance to it (fakes), just like all other luxury brands. We are working closely with the authorities to tackle the problem."
Late last month, the Shanghai Second Intermediate People's Court handed down a preliminary ruling ordering a Shanghai outlet of French retailer Carrefour to pay 300,000 yuan (US$37,500) to Louis Vuitton's parent company, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, for selling fake Louis Vuitton bags.
In another case, the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled that Chaowai Men's Department Store had violated the Louis Vuitton trademark. The court awarded the French firm 150,000 yuan (US$18,500) in its suit against the store, which was selling fake Louis Vuitton handbags.
(China Daily May 14, 2006)