It could be the perfect story to show how China Inc and its American partner can work together for a win-win result, but Chinese consumers are having second thoughts on this.
Earlier this year, upscale U.S. handbag and accessory maker Coach said it planned to list in Hong Kong to reflect the growing importance of China’s luxury market. Coach didn’t give a timeframe for the IPO plan, but one thing is fairly certain – before Coach launches its IPO, its local partner in the small city of Dongguan, near Hong Kong, will aim to rise $200 million first.
The company, Sitoy (Dongguan) Leather Products has hired Bank of America-Merrill Lynch for a Hong Kong listing by the end of November. In IPO marketing materials distributed to potential investors, Sitoy described itself as the largest handbag OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in China, although it didn’t name any of its clients.
However, Chinese netizens quickly found out from the company’s website (www.sitoy.hk) that one of Sitoy’s OEM clients is Coach, a New York-based brand popular among China’s fast-growing middle-class. In China, Coach prices are far lower than those for top-tier brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, although it is still considered a luxury brand among consumers in the world’s No.2 economy.
“Why not buy expensive Caoch bags directly from the Dongguan factory? I believe the cost must be very cheap,” said one Sina Weibo user in response to the news. Foreign brands — not only luxury fashion brands but also consumer electronic makers — have many OEM partners in China, although they are often reluctant to identify them to avoid such unsatisfaction from local customers.