16
Apr
2014

Treat yourself, treat your friends

I had the very recent pleasure of spending a week in the UK with a party of Chinese who were there on business. I say pleasure because although there were some times when the carefully prepared schedule had to be adjusted by what I can only call ‘the Chinese being Chinese’ and deciding that they wanted to do something slightly different from that which was written on paper. Never the less, everything worked out and the show went on.

It was a large party which meant moving everyone from place to place was quite an exercise, and getting everyone on a small bus on time could be a challenge, especially as when one stops for a cigarette, they all do. But the camaraderie they had for one another, and the desire to always include me was amazing. I had a first hand view of being a member of a Chinese ‘tourist party’, which taught me a great deal, brought me closer to a group of people I barely knew and demonstrated to me at least that as a foreigner living in China, my experiences and flexibility have made me ‘Chinglish’. They liked my company, and I liked theirs.

One aspect of my time with the group that impressed me most was their generosity to one another and to me. Always offering to buy me food and drinks, making sure I was OK, and including me in their banter. They didn’t think twice about paying a great deal of money to get our bus driver a ticket to a top Premier League football match we all attended, even though it cost many times its face value. He was a friend, and they wanted him to be part of the group. If this had been a group of Europeans, I don’t think the same level of generosity would have been seen.

My take-away from this tiring but rewarding week, was a reinforcement of my previous knowledge that bonds of friendship in China are hard won, but deep and solid from that moment on, and that there is never a case of ‘I paid for it last time, so now its his turn’. They are just happy to make you happy. We are now real friends who will socialise and do business together for years to come, who will laugh and have fun at the others expense, and who will treat others by buying gifts or dinners for the rest of our lives.

Don’t underestimate the power of a group of Chinese travellers when they come into your store, hotel or restaurant; they are one body that will look after each other and you if you take the time to get to know them. Luxury brands need to avoid considering Chinese consumers as transient, consider them as friends and they will reward you with their loyalty as they do to all their friends.

Ken Grant
Ken is the publisher of Luxury Insights China, he is regularly asked for his comments and opinions of the luxury sector in China by the media, and speaks at conferences on the subject. His international marketing experience covers 25 years, and most territories of the world.

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