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City Report Suzhou

Located in South Jiangsu province in the Yangtze River delta, Suzhou is a famous historic and cultural city and an important scenic tourist destination in China. As the most developed city in Jiangsu province, Suzhou is an economic, industrial and commercial, foreign trade and logistics centre, in addition to being the most important financial, cultural and transportation hub. The principle industries in the city are electronic information, equipment manufacturing, light industry, textiles, metallurgy and chemicals. Suzhou has been recognised as the city of good resource, rich in historical attributes with smart and intelligent people. A home of silk and a city of gardens, Suzhou won the title of China Special Charming City in 2012.


In 2012, the industrial output of Suzhou was 3452.8 billion RMB, placing it 6th in the GDP ranking of cities in China after the four tier one cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and the port city Tianjin. 24 private enterprises in Suzhou are among the top 500 private enterprises in the country. Of the investment in the city, 56.2% comes from private enterprises, and large private enterprises account for 31.1% of all output in the city. Retail sales of consumer goods in 2012 were 325.4 billion RMB, a 15% year on year growth. And per capita disposable income of Suzhou citizens in 2012 was 37,531 RMB, and ranked seventh in the country.

Government policy

In recent years the Suzhou government established a plan to target the finance, logistics, service outsourcing, the cultural and creative and other high-end service industries. In order to attract the high-end brands and enterprises to enter Suzhou, enterprises that qualified receive 1-2 million RMB in financial subsidies. The governments’ efforts have resulted in the introduction of high-end luxury brands, the launching of Suzhou Wedding Fair, the opening of the Lamborghini Hotel and the successful signing of the Suzhou luxury shopping village project.

Luxury retail distribution

Guanqian Street, Shilu and Nanmen are the three most established commercial areas in Suzhou. Located in the middle of the city, Guanqian street has more than 1,700 years of history, with retail format that consists of department stores and individual shops along the street. Dueto a long term lack of investment in the infrastructure and poor traffic and accessibility caused by the construction of the new metro system, the popularity of Guanqian Street is on the decline.

Currently, the government is taking active measures to make Nanmen commercial circle into a core commercial hub with its own specific characteristics. By contrast, Jinji Lake commercial circle represents the emerging commercial hub that contains the two high end commercial complexes of the Jiuguang department store and Ligongdi. Xinqu commercial districtis yet another emerging commercial area that has been under development for the last few years and includes, Shishan Road CBD and the Metro 2 Department Store.

Suzhou Metro (Guanqian store)

Opened in 1990 and located at the heart of the Guanqian commercial district, Suzhou Metro is a long established department store that has been refurbished as a shopping mall and positioned as high to mid-end, with an area of 55,000 sqm covering 7 floors, the ground floor is occupied by many top luxury brands such as Bottega Veneta, Emporio Armani, Montblanc, Polo Ralph Lauren, Y-3, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Chaumet, MaxMara, Kent&Curwen, Loewe, Dunhill, Gieves&Hawkes, Coach, Hugo Boss, Hermes, Pal Zileri, Armani collezioni, Bvlgari, Cerruti 1881, David Mayer Naman, Gucci, Daks, Versace and Brioni. The floors above are home to many lesser known and in some cases local brands.

Suzhou Tower

Opened in 1996, Suzhou Tower is located in the Nanmen commercial district and a landmark of the ancient city area, covering 48,000 sqm, and containing more than 800 brands. Current luxury brands in residence include Salvatore Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton, TOD’S, Celine, Bally, Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, Paul & Shark, Corneliani, Burberry, Canali, Etro, Versace, Audemars Piguet, Damiani, Mont Blanc, Omega, Cartier, Piaget, and Kenzo.


The Jiuguang Department Store

Opened in 2009 and located in the Jinji Lake commercial area, Suzhou Jiuguang Department Store is the largest department store in Suzhou covering an area over 170,000 sqm. Taking advantage of its prime commercial location, the Jiuguang Department store has attracted many international brands to open their first stores in Suzhou here. The luxury brands which have presence include Aquascutum, Bally, Braun Buffel, Burberry, Cerruti 1881, Coach, Cole Haan, Escada Sports, Gieves&Hawkes, Guy Laroche, Hugo boss, Kate Spade, Kent & Curwen, Longchamp, Michael Kors, Montblanc, Omega, Paris Miki, Philippe, Charriol, PieroGuidi, S.T.Dupont, Swarovski, Thomas Pink, Tumi, Vertu.

Suzhou Metro 2 (Xinqu store)

As the second Metro mall in Suzhou opened in 2012, Suzhou Metro2 covers 57,000 sqm over 5 floors, and is located in the Xinqu commercial area. Benefiting from the light rail connection, it aims to become a new shopping destination for white-collar workers. Many well known international brands have opened in this mall including Coach, Dunhill, CANALI, Gucci, Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Mont Blanc.

Consumer attitudes

According to a survey carried out by the local press in 2010, the main consumer group in Suzhou are the white collar and private business owners from 25 to 45 years old, our own mystery shopping in the city in 2013 would support this survey. In fact, the refined Suzhou people are not used to visibly showing off their wealth, being understated consumers they buy luxury firstly for self reward and then to display their taste and financial strength. Female luxury consumers in particular are already used to luxury consumption and enjoy living in a cosmopolitan city. For businessmen, however, the other role of luxury is to subtly display their economic strength to their business associates. The latest market feedback indicates that the local luxury consumers are fond of collectable watches and jewellery.

According to the media, the Gucci store in Suzhou sold more than 4 million RMB worth of product on its first day of operation, and there are claims that after being open for one hour, the LV store achieved over one million RMB of sales. So who buys luxury in Suzhou? The VIP data from the Metro and Suzhou Tower malls shows that there are many young luxury consumers aged from 20 to 30 years old, including the rich second generation and some white collars workers who buy luxury products as a reward for their hard work. Half of the sales in Suzhou Tower LV store are contributed to by consumers from the Wujiang district. According to Cartier Suzhou, their main consumers are the white collar and private business owners from 25-45 years old, 60% of whom are the existing clients with a keen fashion sense and high life quality expectations.

Editors view

Over almost 10 years, the luxury sectors recognised and accessed by consumers in Suzhou range from cosmetics, clothes, bags, and watches to cars, luxury furniture and kitchenware, and in some cases yachts and luxury property. The first Tonino Lamborghini hotel in Asia was opened in 2012, and is the first luxury hotel in Suzhou.

A European style luxury shopping village will open in Suzhouin 2014.

Chic Outlet Shopping Villages, operated by Europes Value Retail Group will start to develop the Asian market, their first step: to open in Suzhou in 2014 and introduce 130 luxury retail stores for Chinese consumers. The Suzhou Village will be located in the Suzhou Industrial Park, about an one hour’s drive from Shanghai. In terms of size, Suzhou Village will be as big as the Europe’s largest: Bicester Village (located in the heart of Oxfordshire, UK). Despite Europe’s economic issues, the nine shopping village of Value Retail in Europe still generate sales of US$2.2 Billion, an increase of 18%. Also according to data collected from the nine shopping villages, Chinese tourists tax refund sales in 2012 grew by 47% compared to the same period the year before.

The director of tourism at Value Retail, Ian Stazicker said ‘the reason Suzhou was selected as the first site in Asia is that as the tourist resort, Suzhou receives about 70 million mainland tourists each year’. The big question for observers like us, is whether the 70 million tourists are really of a social status to have the money and inclination to buy luxury products, as they currently do not spend money with the luxury stores in the city centre.

Although Suzhou has a growing luxury consumer base, its close proximity to Shanghai and a currently limited shopping experience do not yet make it a very attractive destination for many luxury brands. Its local consumers prefer to travel to Shanghai to make their purchases due to wider choice and and a more engaging experience.


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