Ferragamo for Morgan Stanley, a good match?
By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.
Hong Kong is a real shopping paradise where people in the financial industry apparently have privileges not just because they can probably afford to buy more top brands, but they can also buy them exclusively and at a discount, at least for this Christmas.
This week, an email from Italian luxury maker Salvatore Ferragamo, exclusively inviting Morgan Stanley staff in Hong Kong to join its pre-Christmas sale, has caught the attention of their jealous peers at rival banks.
With the exclusive invitation, a Morgan Stanley employee in Hong Kong could visit a store of Salvatore Ferragamo in the former British colony to buy its bags, shoes, belts or other luxury products at a special discount before the items were put on sale for the public.
“Please present the business card of Morgan Stanley before making your purchase,” Salvatore Ferragamo said in the invitation.
My Morgan Stanley friends in Hong Kong told me they didn’t remember such promotions last Christmas when everybody in the financial industry was still deeply worried about a “double dip” and unsure when the end of the financial crisis might come. This year is quite different. At least Salvatore Ferragamo seems certain the buying power of Morgan Stanley’s staff should have now recovered.
In fact, financial professionals at other banks and funds such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Nomura in Hong Kong have also received many coupons and invitations to join various pre-Christmas sales events. Those usually will be extended to the general public afterwards, but by then consumers might complain that the choice of products is limited.
Just this week alone, there will be a so-called “Bargain Sale” for Christian Dior fans in Hong Kong, with up to 70 percent discounts for selected handbags. At the same time, Furla will run a “Showroom Sample Sale” event in Causeway Bay, one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping areas. Of course, those events are by invitation only, and guess who gets the invitations? From the information I get from my friends in the banking and fund industry, they are the target audience.
I asked a friend who works for the Hong Kong government if she also gets such invitations. “Rarely. And I got them only because my friends in the banking industry forwarded those emails to me. Of course I am not their target clients,” she replied.
The exclusive invitation from Salvatore Ferragamo for Morgan Stanley staff in Hong Kong makes my friends working for local brokerages and banks envious. “Why Morgan Stanley? I think they are rich enough and won’t care about a 20 or 30 percent discount. I am definitely more price sensitive than they are,” said an analyst working for the Hong Kong office of a big Chinese bank.
Ferragamo, does it make sense? As of this posting, Ferragamo had not responded to an emailed request for comment.
George Chen is a Reuters editor and columnist based in Hong Kong.
Photo: A pre-sale invitation from Salvatore Ferragamo for Morgan Stanley staff in Hong Kong, obtained by Reuters on November 30, 2010