China Consumer

Marriage market

LVMH eyes profits in Chinese wedding photos

Marriage market

Want expensive photos? “We do”

Louis Vuitton has made a fortune understanding consumer psychology. One of its cleverest decisions was never to hold sales campaigns – preferring to destroy stock rather than discount it and cheapen its brand. Another focus is to enter niche but high-end markets. In China its parent, LVMH, already owns Wenjun, a liquor brand which it acquired in 2007. And now it is taking aim at a new business: the nuptial market. The company’s private equity arm L Capital has been in talks to add a Chinese wedding photography company to its portfolio.

Ravi Thakran, managing partner at L Capital, told the China Daily that the firm has been in talks with a “very large” wedding photography company, although he did not identify the target. If it goes through, it would be L Capital’s second investment in China. In February, the company acquired a 10% stake in women’s clothing company Ochirly.

With more than 10 million couples getting married every year, the market for wedding photography in China is significant. And as consumers get more affluent they are prepared to spend more on the photos supposed to last them a lifetime.

“Taking photos is on the same level as the wedding itself,” one young bride explained.

He Lina, secretary-general of Shanghai Wedding Industry Association, reckons high-end wedding photography is gaining in popularity. According to recent statistics, newly weds in China spend an average of Rmb3,526 ($557) on their celebratory snaps.

Photos on the wedding day itself are only part of the package. Many couples opt to get their pictures taken well in advance of their actual marriage day. And they spare no expense: some fly to exotic destinations in Europe and the US to make sure that they have the most romantic backdrop for their photos.

For those on a tighter budget, Taiwan is a preferred option. A five-day tour of the island with photos at various scenic spots costs about $2,000 per couple.

In fact, demand has been so strong that some Taiwanese studios have set up shop in China. “We find people from the mainland are now spending more on clothing and wedding photography than people from Taiwan,” says Hou Tsun-jen, manager of the Sophia Wedding Photo Studio in Taipei.

Wedding photographers in Europe and North America will be hoping to capture real moments in time. But Chinese photos are often carefully crafted so that couples can enact their romance fantasies. Some don traditional costume against the backdrop of imperial China or slip into something uncomfortable from seventeenth century France. Thriftier couples who can’t afford the trip to Paris use software like Photoshop to transport them to the Eiffel Tower, says Chongqing Morning News.

Zhang Nan, a 26 year-old office worker in Beijing told the China Daily that she had paid Rmb12,000 for her wedding pictures, more than three times her monthly salary. “It is a tiring but amazing experience,” recalls Zhang. “I was like a superstar that day.”

More recently, there are even cases of photographers accompanying newly-weds on their honeymoons, snapping shots at scenic spots and romantic restaurants.

Needless to say, LVMH is not the only company to see potential in China’s wedding industry. Vera Wang, the bridal designer, also has her eyes on the market. She recently unveiled her Spring bridal collection made up of striking red gowns, despite white remaining by far the most popular colour choice among brides.

Wang, who is ethnically Chinese, has not elaborated on the symbolism of her ‘red’ collection, titled Mei Meng, or ‘Sweet Dreams’. But insiders say she could have more affluent Chinese brides in mind. After all, red is an auspicious colour for the Chinese, as well as the traditional colour of the Chinese wedding dress.

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