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Flower of French Montagut blooming in China
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With its flower logo and romantic feeling of its Chinese translation name, the renowned French fashion brand, Montagut, has retained its "big name" in China for more than two decades.

Montagut has recently opened its flagship store in Macao at Asia's largest entertainment destination, the Grand Canal Shoppes of the Venetian Macao-Resort Hotel, marking the full coverage of Montagut shops in almost all major Chinese cities including Hong Kong and Taipei.

"We shall use the flagship store to display the most trendy and fashionable lines in our ranges after our success in other parts of China," said Pierre Gros, chairman and president of the France- based Montagut Group, in an interview with Xinhua.

He said that he believed the store will be one of the tools to successfully "seduce" the next generation of Montagut customers.

Montagut's success in China went with the country's reform and opening up starting in late 1970s. It has now more than 3,000 boutiques, franchises and counters across the country, perhaps outnumbering the total shops Montagut has in other parts of the world.

The company began to tap the Chinese mainland market with menswear in early 1980s, and its polo shirts made of its exclusive "fil-lumiere" interwoven fabric hit instant success among the newly-turned rich businessmen.

In the eyes of many Chinese people, the polo shirts were associated with wealth and romance as its Chinese brand name means "charming dream". Its flower logo added more to the romantic feeling.

"Montagut entered the Chinese mainland market at a happy moment in China's history, when the people were coming out of isolation and shortages and beginning to enjoy the fruits of reform and opening up policy," Gros said.

At that time, there were not many western goods available, and the Montagut polo shirt was one of the first high-class items that could be brought there.

Gros recalled that on his first trip to Chinese mainland in 1978, he noticed that travelers from Hong Kong were carrying many presents to their relatives in China, and he hoped that Montagut could become a prized gift for them to carry to the mainland.

He also found that at that time, there had appeared some advertisements for utility goods but nothing for fashion goods.

"We then easily obtained advertisement panels and posters in many locations for a very reasonable price and later found them to be a big booster to our sales in our overseas shops and in Hong Kong," he said.

Montagut was the second European fashion brand to entered Chinese mainland market after Pierre Cardin, another French fashion brand.

"In the mid-1980s, we witnessed the huge success of Pierre Cardin's first fashion show trip in the mainland and decided shortly after that we should do fashion shows, too," he said.

"With such early efforts, we quickly became of the top high- class menswear brands in Chinese mainland," he said.

Gros acknowledged that with more world-renowned fashion brands entering Chinese mainland market, Montagut faced stiff challenges.

"Indeed it is a challenge to remain famous in China," he said. "Our customer base is stable and faithful, but they have lots of choices now."

"In addition to innovative products, we have to provide an excellent quality and service if we want to retain them," he said.

Montagut has increased its market presence by introducing gradually all items in the menswear line in Chinese mainland market and later expanded to neighboring articles such as handbags, belts, shoes, and luggage.

"We are now in the process of setting up a nationwide network of franchised flagship stores following the models of our own stores," he said.

Montagut, being a 100 percent family-owned business, does not release its sales figures. But Chinese official figures indicated that Montagut's polo shirts remained one of the top ten best sold in mainland market.

"We can say that while the sales of our historic product remains high, it is no longer representing most of the sales," said Gros.

Most of the growth these days is coming from the new product- lines such cotton polo shirts-blousons, cashmere sweaters and casual wear, he said.

"With our early presence in Hong Kong and Chinese mainland, we gradually came to love and understand the Chinese people and their expectations, and spent more efforts than any other European brand year after year to satisfy them," said Gros.

(Xinhua News Agency October 8, 2007)

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