For the third year in a row, Lunar New Year (LNY) celebrations have been dampened by COVID. In pre-pandemic times, up to 3bn trips were made over China during the holiday, a far cry from this year’s estimated 1.18bn.
With Omicron surging and international travel compromised, it’s never been more crucial for retailers to nail their online offerings and promotions.
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In the meantime, read on to discover the key findings from the Year of the Tiger in fashion.
• With netizens’ well established role as cultural watchdogs and complex retailer relations with China, fashion took a more cautious approach to Lunar New Year, choosing to concentrate on the colors synonymous with the event – red and gold – as well as tiger-themed merchandise.
• The versatility of this year’s animal led to more options available in collections than in previous years. There was also a shift in the types of products ranged – traditionally, retailers invest deepest in accessories, but this year, tops were the most-backed range, with tiger prints offering greater longevity than previous animal motifs.
• As the luxury market experiences inflation, LNY merchandise came in at a higher average full price than in 2021. Analyzing Kering brands in the US, outerwear at Gucci sat 88% higher YoY, while Balenciaga’s expansion of tops options drove prices upwards 36%.
• Email communications were mainly product-centric, with only a handful of brands so far using this opportunity to provide education into cultural nuances or support for AAPI communities.
Traveling less, but spending more
Despite the government’s recommendation to stay put as Omicron cases increase, an estimated 1.18bn trips will occur this year. Though below pre-pandemic levels, that’s a 46% jump YoY. Retail spending in China is also predicted to see a 10% YoY rise.
Going beyond capsule collections
As younger generations push for greater authenticity, campaigns for events like LNY need to be layered to avoid tokenism. As acts of discrimination increased over the past year, representation, collaboration and support for the AAPI community is paramount. Luxury brands have also wielded LNY to protect cultural landmarks and animal welfare. In addition to Bottega Veneta’s digital installation on the Great Wall, the brand will financially contribute to maintenance of the Shanhai Pass, while Gucci and Prada are raising awareness and funds to protect endangered big cats and their natural habitats.
Image via Bottega Veneta
Navigating complex relationships
Ongoing trade tensions have strained the relationship between the US and China. Additionally, several Western retailers have pledged to stop sourcing cotton from the Xinjiang region due to accusations of forced labor use. Growing Chinese nationalism has led to consumer boycotts when international fashion and luxury brands are particularly reliant on this consumer for pandemic recovery sales, putting local retailers in favor during LNY.
All eyes on Beijing
The Beijing Winter Olympics will take place in the middle of the LNY Festival, drawing even more attention to the region. Though China’s zero COVID policy has barred foreign spectators from the event and tightened restrictions for domestic patrons, retailers haven’t been deterred from merging the two events in their products and marketing. Following its “Prada On Ice” pop-up in November, the Italian brand leaned on skicore influences in its LNY collection.
The Assortment Breakdown
Succeeding 2021’s ox and 2020’s rat, the tiger is a more versatile and marketable animal, giving retailers more breadth to explore within their collections. For 2022, tops overtook accessories as the most invested category in menswear, making up over half of LNY assortments. This caused categories like accessories, outerwear and bottoms to equal a smaller proportion YoY. However, retailers like Hugo Boss extended its options to include underwear and socks, enticing entry-level purchasing and add-on sales.
A similar pattern emerged for womenswear launches, with tops equaling 51% of LNY styles, driven by T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. Despite this more casual approach, dresses have seen a greater uptake this year. With restrictions around events relaxing and a renewed interest in partywear, they are given equal weighting to the bottoms category. While accessories were bumped to second place, handbags remained a major investment at 44% of accessories. Retailers also expanded their footwear buys, landing sneakers with tiger prints or motifs.
Synonymous with LNY as a symbol of good fortune, red was predominantly featured throughout men’s and womenswear collections at 11% and 9% of products, respectively. Riffing off the dopamine dressing trend, pink was color-blocked with red in ranges from Max Mara and Charles & Keith, making it one of the most utilized hues for LNY. Pink was also a standout in Dior’s butterfly campaign.
Over half of the products launched for LNY in both regions were patterned – unsurprisingly, as retailers rang in the Year of the Tiger, orange and animal prints were ubiquitous. These were mainly applied to tops in womenswear, while a subtler interpretation was used for menswear with tiger stripe scarves, ties and backpacks. Graphic prints followed, which saw Kenzo dominate with its signature tiger logo.
With luxury brands’ prices rising and their significant stake in this event, LNY exclusive merchandise is getting more costly. Though Gucci’s products featured characters like Doraemon and Mickey Mouse over the past two years, which would have required a paid license, its Tiger collection in the US is still more expensive YoY for each category. The average full price of footwear and bags comes in slightly cheaper in the UK. However, outerwear eclipsed bags this year as the most expensive category in this region, as 2021’s range included luggage, which drove prices upwards.
While Balenciaga updated existing pieces with tiger prints instead of creating new silhouettes, prices still experienced inflation vs. its Year of the Ox offering. Tops saw an average full price increase within 33%-36%. The brand included more premium materials such as cashmere in its LNY collections compared to 2021’s tops offering, which consisted of T-Shirts and hoodies. Balenciaga also added footwear to its 2022 assortment, with a Year of the Tiger Triple S sneaker and fuzzy, striped iteration of its Mallorca sandal.
Major Promotional Stories
Despite retailers taking a more active stance on racial injustice, diversity and inclusion, the majority of brands shied away from calling attention to these issues in their LNY campaigns. KOIO and Opening Ceremony were among those recruiting AAPI creatives to shoot their LNY campaigns. ADAY promoted the fact that a portion of sales made during this period would be donated to Heart of Dinner, which delivers hot meals and fresh produce to Asian Elders in New York.
Promoting products and ranges were more widespread in LNY communications, with retailers sending curated emails of red products and popular categories such as beauty, handbags and gift items. As unearthed by our data, tiger prints were prevalent in ranges, featuring in campaigns from Marc Jacobs and Marni. Moschino and Etro took a playful approach, licensing nostalgic feline characters like Tony the Tiger and Tigress from Kung Fu Panda.
From the team at EDITED, we’d like to wish everyone celebrating Lunar New Year a very happy and prosperous year ahead!