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Lunar New Year – Strategy In The Year of the Rabbit

Luxury brands bet on fewer products and higher prices, as the Year of the Rabbit marked a return to tourism following the relaxation of China’s zero COVID policy.

Despite the marketability of the 2023’s zodiac animal, Year of the Rabbit collections contracted 37% compared to Year of the Tiger.

Key Takeaways

  • The Lunar New Year (LNY) for 2023 represents luxury’s long-awaited rebound in China and western retailers refraining from hijacking the holiday for commercial gain. Brands took a localized approach to LNY, with Nike and Maje spotlighting Chinese sports stars and creatives to build a more authentic connection with consumers.
  • This strategy resulted in 37% fewer products in capsule ranges YoY. Retailers invested in nostalgic licensing through characters such as Miffy and Bugs Bunny, symbolic red collections and a renewed focus on accessories and footwear.
  • As a result of inflation and an attempt to recover from decreased Chinese tourism, the average price for LNY ranges has increased in western markets. Outerwear and tops noted the most significant hikes, driven by new products at Gucci.
  • In addition to red product edits, faux fur and rabbit graphics dominating LNY communicationsGanni, ADAY and UGG spotlighted Asian communities and donations to non-profit organizations.

Overarching Themes

Optimism Surrounds China’s Reopening
The Rabbit represents hope and peace, a calming omen for 2023 following several years of volatility. Major luxury players share the sentiment, with LNY celebrations coinciding with the zero COVID policy in mainland China being lifted for the first time since early 2020, making travel more accessible for Chinese tourists. The eased restrictions have sparked optimism for companies including Burberry and Richemont, which expect a rebound in spending. Analysts predict Chinese shoppers to return to Europe by H2, which will significantly benefit luxury sales.

Emphasis on Family
Previous holidays dampened by COVID underscored the importance of family and shared rituals in LNY campaigns. Creating positive memories was an underlying theme, as executed at Nike with deep fake technology to transform athletes Li Na, Yi Jianlian, Wang Shuang and Liu Xiang into their child selves at an LNY dinner. Harrod’s tapped Chinese multi-brand retailer Labelhood to offer its signature family portraits in its London department store. Meanwhile, Under Armor eschewed rabbit-themed merchandise for dumping motifs – a symbol of family togetherness and fortune.

Nostalgia Wins
77% of Chinese consumers enjoy products that stir up memories, which have been of particular comfort during the pandemic, making nostalgic cartoon collaborations a hit for LNY ranges. This success was seen at Givenchy where, despite a steep average price point of $1,297/£1,069, over half of the products from its collection featuring Disney’s Oswald the Lucky Rabbit have been out of stock in the US and UK. The Tommy Hilfiger x Miffy collaboration in the UK has experienced a sell out rate of 32%, with 11% of styles having been replenished.

Guochao Reigns Supreme
Directly translated as ‘national wave’ or ‘national trend,’ Guochao refers to the increased patriotism towards native brands and a modernized twist on traditional dressing styles experienced by Chinese Gen Z. Western brands fused nostalgic influences, cultural interpretations and KOL’s to make a genuine connection with this cohort during their most significant holiday. Maje collaborated with Chinese illustrator Jiayi Li on a capsule collection and campaign inspired by animations from Shanghai Animal Film Studio. Loewe reimagined its signature bunny bag in spring hues, accompanied by a campaign starring actor Tang Wei.

Maje

The Assortment Breakdown

Western retailers are exploring more authentic ways to celebrate the event instead of profiting from it with targeted merchandise. Despite the marketability of the 2023’s zodiac animal, Year of the Rabbit collections contracted by 37% compared with Year of the Tiger. In menswear, tops remained the staple to design into. However, retailers dedicated a higher portion of their ranges YoY to footwear and outerwear, with Gucci and Burberry the leaders in these categories offering bunny motifs on loafers, sneakers, windbreakers and bomber jackets.

In womenswear, accessories surpassed tops as the most invested in category YoY for LNY ranges, experiencing a 3% increase in product count. This was driven by new arrivals in handbags – led by Loewe’s bunny collection. Brands designed more elevated styles for Year of the Rabbit, evidenced by the 2pp decrease in T-shirt options within tops and a greater YoY emphasis on sweater vests and cardigans, backed by Tory Burch and Marni. Gucci added all-in-ones to its lineup as a fresh silhouette update for LNY ranges.

Synonymous with good fortune, red equaled a significant proportion of LNY styles. At the same time, whites and neutrals were commonplace for faux fur and fuzzy textures in tops and outerwear, nodding to the overarching bunny theme. Blue and green are the lucky colors for the Year of the Rabbit and made up between 6%-8% and 3%-4% of products, respectively, with Tommy Hilfiger, Givenchy and Mulberry among those brands backing these hues. Pink’s continued presence within fashion was felt, featuring prominently in Stella McCartney and Versace’s collections.

Price Inflation

LNY capsule collections may be shrinking, but they are becoming more costly. This is due to the knock-on effects of inflation as well as the fact that western retailers are trying to make up sales after the decline in Chinese luxury tourism following the past three spring festivals having been shrouded with COVID-related challenges. Additionally, Year of the Rabbit collections were emblazoned with characters such as Bugs Bunny, Miffy and Roger Rabbit, all requiring paid licensing, adding to the elevated prices.

Prices were inflated for most major categories across western markets. The highest discrepancy was for men’s outerwear, which was up by between 78%-127% YoY, and women’s tops, up 84%-98% YoY. Gucci commanded the most premium price points for these items, increasing the total average with a cashmere coat at £6,700, a denim jacket at $5,200, and a woolen sweater retailing at $3,300/£2,100. In the US, men’s LNY bags experienced a 39% decline in average price points, with retailers offering canvas totes and backpacks this year. In contrast, for 2022, Louis Vuitton’s Year of the Tiger cowhide bags, in collaboration with Japanese artist Nigo, drove average prices up.

Small accessories bucked this overarching trend across both regions, with average prices experiencing the sharpest decline for women’s styles in the US by 47% and men’s in the UK by 24%. This strategy suggested retailers aimed to entice customers with entry-level purchases such as wallets and keyrings to offset the upwards pricing trajectory.

Commercial Stories

The expectation of the fashion industry to become more actively involved in racial injustice, diversity and inclusion impacted retailers’ LNY communications. Ganni celebrated members of the Chinese community in its native Copenhagen, while UGG’s monthly giveback program spotlighted actress and founder of Asian American Girl Club, Ally Maki, and donated to the nonprofit community organization, Teach AAPI.

The suiting label, Blacklapel, took a different route, informing customers ahead of the event that its staff would be taking a well-deserved break over LNY to spend time with family. Curated red product edits were prominent amongst the flood of rabbit graphics, allowing retailers to promote products for the event without investing in specific inventory. With the event falling in January, brands aligned their activewear and sporting communications, while sneakers were among the most talked about categories.

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