For the next two weeks, lion dances and red envelopes will fill the Las Vegas landscape during Chinese New Year celebrations. For luxury retailers, it’s a time to showcase the most unique, high-end offerings they have available.
According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, China is the No. 1 source of international travel from Asia to Las Vegas. In 2012 the city welcomed 263,000 Chinese visitors, up 40 percent from 2011. Nationally, visitation to the U.S. from China grew 35 percent in 2012. According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, Chinese travel to the U.S. is projected to increase 24 percent in 2014.
And with those increased numbers comes more people who like to shop.
The Office of Travel & Tourism Industries calculated 2012 Chinese expenditures in the U.S. at $8.8 billion. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Chinese travelers spend more per traveler than any of the top 11 inbound international markets, in part because they stay longer and, you guessed it, love to shop.
Enter Las Vegas shopping centers.
To maximize their exposure this Chinese New Year, the Fashion Show mall and Grand Canal Shoppes, both owned by General Growth Properties, created a promotion for UnionPay cardholders, the Chinese bankcard association with more than 700 million members. All card members who shop at the properties will receive a gift bag.
“We are expanding our reach to the Chinese tourist through recent sales missions to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou, along with Chinese advertising campaigns, social media and trade show participation. Our efforts are already paying off via our cooperation with UnionPay that will help to draw even greater numbers of Chinese shoppers to Fashion Show and Grand Canal Shoppes,” said Janet LaFevre, senior marketing manager for the two shopping centers.
Established in 2002, the association has issued more than 2.9 billion cards and the Fashion Show is recognized as one of the top ten U.S. shopping centers for the volume of UnionPay transactions processed by its retailers. The debit and credit cards also are accepted at the stores inside Crystals at CityCenter, and the mall employs people who speak Mandarin and other dialects.
“It’s a very important holiday for us and our tenants,” said Farid Matraki, Crystals vice president and general manager.
A huge number of Crystals’ clients are Chinese, and the shopping center builds a huge program around the holiday.
Because designer brands tend to resonate with Chinese shoppers, Matraki said leasing at Crystals is focused around the demographic. He said he tries to fill the center with brands that do very well in China such as Louis Vuitton or Hermes. Those brands then strive to offer unique products that high-end customers can’t obtain at home.
“They have to have things that aren’t mass marketed, that are hard to get,” Matraki said.
Picture $250,000 diamond-encrusted crocodile bags and exotic items from Louis Vuitton.
He added that Las Vegas’ high-end retail traffic kicks up dramatically during this time of year.
“We’re excited for the tenants because they usually have great business,” Matraki said.
Many of the Strip-based retailers are highlighting items that might appeal to the Chinese New Year traveler. At the Forum Shops at Caesars, Exclusive Collections is featuring Chinese artist Jia Lu and Burberry has a selection of Lunar New Year items available. Swatch introduced The Year of The Horse watch, featuring black horse graphics on a white band.
Back inside Crystals, crystal designer Lalique is showcasing its Equestrian Collection, which includes vases and sculptures. The store opened Jan. 28, and Matraki said he had to make sure it was ready to go for Chinese New Year because of the products’ tie in with the holiday. This is Lalique’s first standalone Las Vegas location.
At the Tourbillon boutique, customers can view one of the only wristwatches equipped with a traditional Chinese calendar, the Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel watch by Blancpain.
In terms of décor, Crystals transitioned into its Chinese New Year decorations about a week ago, which include a 12-foot horse. Similarly, the Palazzo’s atrium was outfitted with a “Year of the Horse” art installation earlier in January that runs through Feb. 16. At Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, guests can view three 800-pound Tang Dynasty horse sculptures in celebration of Chinese New Year. Each of the pieces was hand-carved and encased in Fiberglas-reinforced plastic molds. They’ll be on display through Feb. 14.
Outside of the casino world, the Las Vegas community also is getting together to celebrate.
From Feb. 7-9, downtown will host the third annual Chinese New Year in the Desert Festival, which features cultural performances, international cuisine and live music. The festival opens at 5 p.m. Feb. 7 and noon Feb. 8 and 9. The event’s open until 10 p.m. Feb. 7 and 8 and 9 p.m. on Feb. 9.
Las Vegas Chinatown’s celebration is planned from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 9. The event is organized by the Chinese American Chamber of Commerce. About 5,000 people are expected to attend the festival that features about 100 retail vendors, entertainment and food. Cost is $3 for adult and $1 for children ages 5-12.
Chinese New Year began Friday and lasts two weeks.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at email@example.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.