Tag Archives: Pierre Gervois

Chinese tourists don’t just duty-free shop in the U.S.: They also invest in real estate ($100 billion in 2016)

Wealthy Chinese family searching a home in the U.S. - China Elite FocusThe number of Chinese tourists traveling the globe has increased significantly for the last ten years, making them the largest group of travelers in the world. Now, thanks in part to a recent agreement between the U.S. and China to extend visas for short-term business travelers, tourists and students, the U.S. could see an increase in Chinese travelers in the near future.

This trend is supported by research from the latest Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) from Hotels.com which reveals the U.S. is the second most popular destination for Chinese travelers to visit in the next 12 months (behind France), with popular U.S. landmarks like the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty topping travel wish lists.
The CITM research also identifies that, while cities in Asia Pacific remain the most popular (82 percent of Chinese travelers have visited in the past 12 months), visitors to Europe and America have increased with a year over year growth of 25 percent and 11 percent, respectively. These destinations were particularly popular with millennial travelers, with 42 percent visiting Europe and 29 percent visiting America in the past 12 months.

“The CITM reveals that the United States is one of the top five countries Chinese travelers visit the most,” said Josh Belkin, vice president and GM of the Hotels.com brand. “With tens of thousands of places to stay across the U.S., like distinctive boutiques, spacious vacation rentals and familiar chains, our site and mobile app have the perfect places for Chinese travelers of all ages and lifestyles.”

In 2016, there were 122 million outbound Chinese tourists – four percent more than in 2015 and a massive 74 percent more than in 2011, when the first CITM was published. China is already the largest source of international travelers for many countries – despite the fact only 10 percent of the population had passports in 2016.

“Chinese travelers in the United States tend to be more affluent than those who choose other destinations”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC and Founder of the STC magazine, a luxury travel digital publication in Chinese Mandarin. “Real Estate investment in the United States is now the #1 real reason – and rarely stated in surveys – for affluent and wealthy Chinese outbound travelers, as they have acquired for $100 billion in U.S. Real Estate in 2016”

Source: CITM, hotels.com, STC magazine, Chinese Tourists Blog

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U.S. Hotels & destinations should now communicate in English with Millennial Chinese Travelers

Chinese Millennial Traveler - Gervois magazineThey speak English now (Just in case you didn’t notice).

They are the millennial Chinese travelers in the United States.

They are the Chinese tourists coming to discover the United States of America and to buy high quality Made in USA products.

They are the Chinese businessmen and businesswomen coming to invest in American companies and create U.S. jobs.

They are the smart Chinese millennial entrepreneurs coming to America to create start ups and contribute to America’s leadership in future technologies.

They are the Chinese guests fed up to be disrespected in luxury hotels when asking if they really can afford to pay for a suite when they ask for one and are offered first the cheapest room available.

They are the Chinese businessmen walking into a bespoke suit company in New York City and asking for a hand made in America suit because they also deserve to wear the finest clothes. (No, they are not only interested in “I Love NY” Made in China T-shirts)

They are the Chinese travelers annoyed to be depicted by U.S. marketing agencies as using only Chinese social media networks such as Weibo and WeChat, when they are actually using Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch with their U.S. friends and freely discover the world.

They are the tourists who have spent $40Billion in the U.S. in 2016

They are the LGBTQ+ Chinese travelers wanting to be as respected as any other tourist and find safe places to just be who they are.

They are the Chinese shoppers who find utterly ridiculous when Western luxury brands add a dragon or a Chinese symbol on a watch or a handbag and expect that they’ll specifically want to buy this model.

They are the Chinese tourists who are grateful for the warm welcome they have received by American people when they were doing horseback riding or cowboy shooting. (Yes, they are not only obsessed by shopping in large shopping malls but want to discover the various aspects of America’s culture and heritage).

They are the Chinese travelers who are proud of their Chinese cultural heritage and Chinese language, but who also speak English and prefer to read in English original stories about the United States.

They are the Chinese travelers who are fluent in English and understand exactly what some people say about them when they are traveling overseas.

Actually, they are exactly the same as any other traveler in America.

By Pierre Gervois, Founder of Gervois Hotel Rating, Publisher of Gervois Magazine, Hospitality & tourism keynote speaker and expert about marketing to outbound Chinese tourists.

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It’s now easier to pay at U.S. Retailers’ stores for Chinese travelers

A Chinese tourist paying with WeChat Pay - China Elite FocusjpgCitcon, the integrated payment and marketing platform, announced a strategic partnership to enable brands in North America to accept WeChat Pay and Alipay.

WeChat Pay and Alipay are the most popular and convenient payment options for Chinese consumers to purchase goods and services. Adding these payment options to retail point of sale allows brands to now tap into an even larger revenue stream from Chinese consumers who are the largest spender, and fastest growing traveler segment to the North America. The platform enables brands to optimize revenue growth without the costs and hassles of establishing a business entity in China.

WeChat Pay is a fully integrated payment solution within WeChat, the world’s most popular mobile social communications service with 936 million active users and Alipay is a super lifestyle app run by Ant Financial Services Group with more than 450 million active users. Together these platforms jointly account for 90% of China’s mobile payment market share. Both super apps allow users to book a trip, hail a taxi, order food, purchase movie tickets, pay for water and electricity bills, manage investments, perform transactions on e-commerce websites and more to create a cashless society.

“China is changing fast. Mobile payment is the new frontier of commerce and China is leading this trend. By providing an integrated and easy-to-use payment solution, Citcon is creating a future that takes payment and marketing to the next level, empowering global merchants to drive business growth with millions of Chinese consumers.”said Chuck Huang, Founder and CEO of Citcon

As the first payment partner of WeChat Pay and Alipay, in addition to major credit cards such as UnionPay, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, Citcon is a one-stop shop for merchants to connect with Chinese consumers and accept payments anywhere. Citcon’s stand-alone mobile point-of-sale (mPOS), easy-to-integrate API and software products empower merchants to optimize growth both online and offline, with an easy and affordable rate compared to credit card processing. In addition to the convenient payment solutions, merchants will also be able to gain in-depth consumer behavior insights, manage business performance, run marketing campaigns, guides users to merchants stores while saving their shopping preferences for future visits and manage lifetime customer loyalty programs.

“Accepting WeChat Pay is a smart move for U.S. Retailers. That will definitely help with the category of budget-conscious Chinese travelers who choose to travel in groups. But they must keep in mind that the most affluent categories prefer to pay with their international credit cards, who show their status when traveling overseas and offer more perks in terms of miles and reward points.” commented Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC, a media group specialized in luxury travel publications for very affluent Chinese outbound travelers.

Source: Citcon / Chinese Tourists Blog

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How Bloomingdale’s get it right with Chinese shoppers in NYC: They focus on the emotional connection, not on payment methods

Bloomingdale's Interviews -Shanghai Travelers Club May 2015 -7The growing purchasing power of affluent Chinese travelers is making it more important than ever for luxury brands and luxury retail brands to adopt marketing strategies to target them. With Chinese third-party mobile payment systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay beginning to set up shop in popular global tourist destinations, catering to this traveling consumer is becoming easier to do, but it’s not a brand’s only option.

Digital intelligence firm L2’s recent report “Cross-Border and Travel Retail: Connecting Digitally with China’s Shoppers” discusses ways brands can be targeting consumers online both during their journey overseas and before they set off.

“[Luxury brands] are under-serving the traveling Chinese consumer, whether it’s through their own brand site and its functionality and capability, their WeChat account, or from leveraging things like WeChat Pay and Alipay,” said Danielle Bailey, head of Asia Pacific Research at L2. “It’s a huge missed opportunity for them to not engage on these platforms that Chinese consumers are using all the time. Their phone is their number one travel accessory.”

Brands that do engage consumers digitally abroad with an omnichannel approach are using platforms like Alipay’s “Overseas Travel Channel (支付宝境外游)” to give travelers exclusive gifts, better exchange rates, or let them find deals near where they’re going, all within the app on their mobile device. WeChat’s website within an app feature gives consumers the opportunity to reserve a product online to pick up in a store and access store locators in their own language that they can hand to a taxi driver en route.
But about half of Chinese travelers are doing research on what they want to buy abroad before they leave, and luxury brands have been adopting strategies to target these consumers, according to L2.

Bloomingdale's Interviews with Chinese customers -Shanghai Travelers Club May 2015 -4In a dissent opinion, Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the STC magazine, a digital travel media in Chinese Mandarin, said “The most important for retailers is not the way Chinese shoppers are going to pay. It’s a technicality. Chinese Customers who want to make a purchase have plenty of options: Cash, credit Cards or WeChat Pay.  The really important thing to do is to convince them to choose a particular retailer”
“Too oftenly, we see U.S. retailers being obsessed by Chinese mobile payment systems when their strategy should be focused on branding their image to Chinese millennial travelers, and create an emotional connection with their future customers, based on their brand values”, Gervois added.

A good starting point is to provide an international store locator on their official online store in China, a strategy about 72 percent of brands employ. However, brands can also take it a step further by adding a Chinese-language travel retail site that let shoppers research the products, compare prices, read reviews, view maps that direct them to duty free shops, and even let them purchase the product online in advance so that they can simply pick it up at the airport if they’re in a hurry.
To help consumers find these pages, brands are paying for search term generated Baidu ads. L2 lists the efforts of beauty brands as an example—many brands pay for cosmetics-related key words, while others, like Lancôme, are taking a more travel-centric approach, targeting consumers researching phrases like “South Korean vacation.”

Some high end retailers, such as Bloomingdale’s, choose a more qualitative approach, and advertise in luxury digital travel publications about the U.S., like the STC magazine, available for mobile but also in digital inflight entertainment.

Bloomingdale's Interviews with Chinese customers -Shanghai Travelers Club May 2015 -3With a very creative advertising campaign created by China Elite Focus Magazines in New York, they organized interviews of actual Mainland Chinese customers while shopping at their Third avenue flagship store.  The story of six actual Chinese Bloomingdale’s customers has been published in the digital edition of the STC magazine: It has much more impact than buying keywords on Chinese search engines and directly talked to the heart of Chinese consumers.

While maintaining an engaging physical presence in airports and shopping malls is always important for marketing to the Chinese shopper abroad, brands that understand how to make the most of China’s digital sphere are likely going to more efficiently connect with Chinese travelers who are in the process of creating their luxury goods shopping list for their next overseas vacation.

Source: Jing Daily / Skift / Chinese Tourists Blog

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Gervois Hotel Rating releases today its 2017 ratings of the finest hotels in the United States

Gervois Rating Launch March 2017The Gervois rating system is a new hotel rating system created by Pierre Gervois, a NYC based media entrepreneur, Publisher of the iconic luxury travel STC magazine. Pierre Gervois has an extensive experience in luxury hotels and has reviewed countless properties all around the world for the last twenty years.

“Over the years, I have been disappointed by the numerous existing hotel rating systems” said Pierre Gervois. “Too often, there is a tendency to give too generous ratings to hotels members of luxury hotels chains, and to underrate independent boutique hotels”, he added.

Based on these facts, Pierre Gervois created an entirely new hotel rating system, purely based on the sole merits of each property, considered alone, regardless of its association to a hotel chain, an affiliation program, other rating systems, or online reviews. Every hotel is rated professionally and independently, without any preconception about the property.

“Most of existing hotel rating & reviewing systems are produced by companies having a direct financial interest in bookings from the hotels they are rating, hence overly positive ratings and an inflation of stars, diamonds, laurels, gold medals and awards that do not always reflect the reality” added Pierre Gervois.

In order to achieve a complete independence from the hospitality industry, Gervois Hotel Rating do not receive any advertising revenues or commissions on rooms bookings from hotels, hotels chains or online travel agencies.

“Gervois Hotel Rating is on the discerning traveler’s side, not on the hotel booking business’ side” concluded Mr Gervois.

The Gervois Hotel Rating rate hotels according to five essential criteria: Location, Building, Atmosphere, Dining and Service, each rated on a 20 points scale. The addition of the points give the final rating, on a 100 points scale.

This rating system allows a greater precision and flexibility in the complex task of rating a hotel that might have many highlights but also some flaws that need to be clearly designated for a transparent information.

84 U.S. properties have been curated and rated over a one year process, through inspections carefully conducted by a small group of international frequent travelers, all reviewed and validated by Pierre Gervois.

“Chinese travelers are incredibly discerning now, and we’ll soon launch a Chinese Mandarin version of our ratings”concluded Mr Gervois.

The 2017 Gervois Hotel Ratings are available on http://www.gervoisrating.com

Also available on
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China-U.S. tourism on growth trajectory

Chinese family at beach - China elite focusChina-U.S. tourism is on a growth trajectory and can help promote closer people-to-people links between the two countries, CEO of China’s top online travel service provider Ctrip has said.

Ctrip sees huge growth potential for Chinese tourists traveling to the United States, Jane Sun said at Columbia University Business School’s Chazen Institute of Global Business.

Last year, a record of 1.3 million people booked air tickets to the United States on Ctrip, she said. The company served in 2016 more than 160,000 Chinese tourists who traveled to the U.S. by providing package tours and other tour products, she added.

GERVOIS magazine Advertising and sponsored content opportunities“People are entrepreneurial in China and want to explore opportunities in other markets. That’s why there is a lot of demand for travel from China to Australia, Europe, New Zealand and the U.S. along with other areas,” said Sun, who was recently rated by Forbes China as one of China’s most powerful business women.

Ctrip made strategic investment in three U.S. tour operators to support the demand by Chinese for trips to the United States last year.

Sun said that there was still room for growth and that her company wanted to further expand its market share.

“I have lived in both the United States and China and I cherish the friends I have in both nations. Travel can be a bridge between the two countries,” she said.

Gervois magazine - Marriott HotelsCtrip, which had an initial public offering on the Nasdaq in 2003, is an industry heavyweight with over 30,000 employees and market valuation of about 25 billion dollars.

“Ctrip is doing a great job to promote the U.S. as a luxury leisure destination” added Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC, a New York based publishing company specialized in luxury travel magazines in Chinese Mandarin. “I have a lot of admiration for Ctrip’s business model.  When I was living in Shanghai, I have been one of their customers for all my plane tickets reservations”

Statistics showed that the number of Chinese tourists traveling to the U.S. jumped by 14.7 percent in the first three quarters of last year from a year earlier, while the number of American tourists traveling to China increased by 7.3 percent during the same period.

Source: Xinhua

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Marketing to Chinese Outbound Tourists: Towards Normalization.

By Pierre Gervois, Founder & Publisher of the STC magazine, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC (New York), keynote speaker and expert about marketing to outbound Chinese tourists.

In 2005, I had the first conversations with executives in luxury hospitality groups about the importance of improving the welcome for their first Chinese guests. I knew they used to receive a very poor quality of service, in large part because of the ignorance of the Chinese culture from the staff of luxury hotels, and also because of the persistence of stereotypes about Chinese travelers.

The General Managers of five star hotels I talked to from 2005 to 2007 told me more or less the same thing “Chinese tourists don’t stay in five star hotels”, and, as a consequence, they did not see the point of investing resources to improve the service for their Chinese guests.

Today, these same hotels advertise in the STC magazine and ask us to define their marketing strategy to attract more of high-spending Chinese guests and offer them the best possible service.

Things have obviously changed over the last ten years.

To better understand the way Chinese outbound tourism has dramatically changed over the last decade, let’s go back fifteen years ago, in the early 2000’s.

I would define three periods to describe the evolution of Chinese outbound tourism:

From 2000 and 2005, most of Chinese outbound travelers were business travelers traveling in official delegations to attend to trade shows and official business meetings in Western Europe and in The United States. At that time, it was nearly impossible for individual Chinese leisure travelers to obtain an independent leisure visa for Europe or the U.S., and the only way to have holidays overseas was to travel in the famous (or infamous) group tours organized by Chinese State-owned outbound travel agencies, in partnership with selected destination management companies in their country of destinations.  Basically, their passports were confiscated by travel agencies during their trip in coaches and low quality hotels, which is not a very enticing way to travel.

Gervois magazine - The new travel magazine for millennials travelers in the United StatesI talked with many of these first Chinese leisure travelers between 2000 and 2005, and they told me how displeased they were by the very poor quality of their travel experience, and how their feelings were hurt by the stereotypes who were widely spread within the travel industry: Chinese tourists were supposed to love to travel in coaches, were allegedly obsessed with discounts, and would prefer to stay in one star hotels. In fact, my Chinese friends were at that time willing to be free to explore a country on their own, were searching high quality – and expensive- travel experiences, and were particularly fond of nice suites in five star hotels. Basically, like a lot of affluent western travelers.  But not of a lot of travel and tourism professional understood and even listened to them at that time.  You were a Chinese tourist?  Then you had to fit in a certain category of negatively stereotyped traveler. Period. In some cases, that was very close to segregation, and surprisingly, very few western travel & tourism professionals realized how painful and sometimes humiliating it was for Chinese leisure travelers.

From 2005 and 2010, The travel and tourism industry started – slowly – to give up on stereotypes concerning Chinese travelers, and at a slower pace to gradually improve the service for Chinese travelers.  Some hotel chains started to offer in-room Chinese tea (It took several years of studies and commissioned researches for hoteliers to take such a simple and inexpensive step), or started to recruit a few Chinese speaking staff members.  But the industry did not yet understood where the core problem was: the structural inability of both the outbound travel agencies (OTA’s) and destination management companies (DMC’s) to understand this massive change in international outbound tourism.  In less than ten years, faster than in any other country in the history of international leisure tourism, a group of outbound travelers was growing at an impressive and never seen rate, from 5 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2010. With old fashioned organizations, Chinese OTA’s could not offer the kind of service that the new generation of Chinese travelers wanted from them: a good understanding of international travel opportunities.  On the other hand, DMC’s in Europe and the U.S. were still stuck in their preconceptions about Chinese leisure travelers and kept offering the same standardized programs (Traveling in coaches from a discount shopping mall to another and sleeping in very low quality hotels), that were by the way never favored by the Chinese travelers themselves.  But their advice was never solicited.  That was before the social media era.

Around 2008, the first social media networks started to become popular in China.  And yes, I remember the time (somewhere in 2008), where Facebook and Twitter were freely accessible in China. With the launch of Weibo in 2009 and dozens of other Chinese social media networks, Chinese outbound travelers started to post stories about their experiences about their overseas travel, and make comments about hotels (since 2008 with the launch of DaoDao, the Chinese version of TripAdvisor). I frequently read translations in English of comments written in Chinese Mandarin about famous luxury hotels in New York, London or Paris, and the first comments and reviews were incredibly negative. Most of them expressed how the staff of these famous hotels lacked of respect with their first Chinese guests, and did clearly offer them a second-class experience compared to other guests from western countries. I was also surprised to see that nobody in these hotels made the effort to request a translation of comments made by their Chinese guests and analyze them.

From 2008 to 2010, the first travel destinations, travel agencies and hotels started to realize that they needed to communicate properly with Chinese outbound travelers, but very few marketing options existed. China Elite Focus was historically the first digital marketing agency (founded in june 2008 in Shanghai) who was exclusively specialized on digital travel marketing for affluent Chinese outbound travelers, with a unique focus on luxury destinations.  The launch of China Elite Focus was followed by a flurry of creation of other independent digital marketing agencies in China, Europe and the US, and defined all together an entire new marketing category: digital marketing to Chinese outbound travelers. The quick development and the popularity of Chinese social media networks as well as the first digital campaigns to promote international travel to Chinese potential travelers contributed critically to a better connection between travel operators worldwide and the emerging category of young and affluent Chinese first-time outbound travelers.

But access to the information was still a big issue, specifically for high spending travelers: From China, how to know what is the best hotel in New York you absolutely want to stay in? What is the best exclusive golf course in Scotland? How to book a table in the Paris’ finest restaurants?  No curated information was available at that time in Chinese Mandarin.  The existing travel magazines published in China did not had such sophisticated informations, and no website existed. That is the main reason we launched the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine (or the STC magazine) in 2009 as an electronic newsletter and since 2012 as an iPad & iPhone digital publication.

From 2010 to 2015, all the elements of the complex puzzle were in place: a dynamic social media network environment in China, the emergence of digital only Chinese travel agencies using extensively social media, the growing desire of Chinese travelers to discover foreign countries, and the understanding by western travel, tourism and retail companies that, yes, this is it, Chinese travelers are the world’s biggest spenders and the #1 group of Chinese outbound travelers. This is an interesting period where we saw two different categories of Chinese travelers intersecting on different paths. Senior travelers, mostly top executives of large Chinese companies who reward themselves after a life of hard work with a once or twice a year luxury international travel experience, and their children, in their early twenties, who quickly become frequent global travelers (six to ten times a year), and end up spending more than their parents in travel and shopping.

One of the important reason for the exponential growth of Chinese outbound tourism (120 million in 2015) is luxury shopping, and in particular the desire to have a genuine shopping experience. Buying a Gucci bag in Milan, a Louis Vuitton suitcase in Paris or a Tiffany diamond in New York was seen in the early 2010’s as a necessary sign of social status for the young and affluent generation. International luxury brands understood too late this trend and hastily opened too many stores in China in this period, many of them with more sales associates than Chinese customers. (They are now closing stores and start to focus on improving the customer relations at their flagship stores in the US and in Europe for Chinese shoppers.)

GERVOIS magazine Advertising and sponsored content opportunitiesOn January 19, 2012, President Obama issued the “Executive Order #13597” who had a major impact in Chinese outbound travel.  This decision had to major consequences:
First, “to increase nonimmigrant (i.e. tourists) visa processing capacity in China by 40% over the coming year”, meaning allocate more human resources at U.S. consulates in China in order to be able to review and process more leisure visa requests.  Second, “to ensure that 80% of nonimmigrant visa applicants in China are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application”, meaning to allow a much faster process for individual Chinese tourists planning holidays in the U.S..  This rather technical Executive Order created a psychological change in the perception the United States as a  luxury holidays destination by Chinese travelers.  Previously more considered as a business destination, the U.S. were seen as of the beginning of 2012 as a much more “tourist friendly” destination by the Chinese, and they started massively to consider to spend holidays in this country, who appeared as newly opened to them. We saw a surge in requests on Chinese search engines about “travel and holidays in the US” in the first half of 2012, and the U.S. travel and tourism industry operators started to feel the economical benefits of an increased influx of Chinese leisure visitors as early as the summer 2012. (1.5 million Chinese visitors came to the U.S. in 2012, 3.1 million are expected for 2019).

In november 2014, China and the United States negociated a reciprocal agreement to extend the validity of tourists visas up to ten years (multiple entries).  It means that since november 2014, a Chinese tourist with a valid tourist visa to the United States can keep this visa for up to ten years, with multiple entries. That is very close to the “Visa Waiver program” with european tourists, and has strongly encouraged Chinese travelers to choose the U.S. over Western Europe destinations, who do not offer tourists visas with such a long validity for Chinese visitors.

At the end of 2015, We could say that 80% of tourism offices, hotel chains, retailers, and airlines had in place elements for a marketing strategy focused on Chinese tourists, even a modest one. What a change if we compare to 2005, where virtually less than 5% of them had a strategy in place.

Today, what could be the trends for the years to come? The first world that comes to my mind is normalization. For the last fifteen years, travel and tourism marketers considered Chinese tourists as a kind of “exotic” category of international traveler, with all the stereotypes and preconceptions attached. Now that more than 100 million Chinese travelers discover the world every year in virtually every country on the planet, tourism and travel professionals have a much better understanding of what the most important group of tourists really want.  And it’s – how surprising – exactly what Americans and European travelers want when they travel abroad: A carefully curated travel experience, nice hotels, local cultural and food discoveries, and the possibility to choose, alone, what to do during the day. Before starting a marketing campaign focused on Chinese outbound travelers, it’s now time to have the exact same mindset that for a marketing campaign targeted at any other nationality of tourists. And, please, forget about the stereotype of the Chinese traveler allegedly only interested by discounts. They are not. They want quality, sophistication and authenticity.  And they know it doesn’t come cheap.

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