July 31 - One of the UK's oldest tailors Gieves and Hawkes, recently bought by Hong Kong group Trinity, tells Reuters how China now came to account for 80 percent of its sales. Ivor Bennett reports.
Home of the suit and tailor to the Royals, Savile Row's always been a very British establishment that is until now. One of the oldest tailors on the row, Gieves and Hawkes, was recently bought out by Hong Kong group Trinity for an initial £32 million. Appetite for luxury may be waning in recession-hit Britain, but in china, it's insatiable. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PLANET RETAIL SENIOR RETAIL ANALYST, ISABEL CAVILL, SAYING: "Largely they're seen as trophy brands because of their heritage. so they've got instant access to luxury by acquiring these goods. And Chinese shoppers tend to like products which are made in England rather than China." When it comes to British fashion, Savile Row is about as luxury as it gets. Each suit takes about 3 months to make, with tailors taking up to 30 different measurements to ensure the best fit. And all that comes at a cost of £5000. Clearly too much for British customers - 7 years without a profit left the domestic arm of Gieves and Hawkes hanging by a thread. But in China, business is booming, accounting for 80% of the company's total sales. Fuelled by constant double-digit growth, its stores there have doubled in number to over 100 in just the last 5 years. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GIEVES AND HAWKES DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, MARK HENDERSON, SAYING: "It's been phenomenal. We've gone from first tier cities having stores, to second tier cities, to third tier. If you were to say third tier city in England you're probably talking about a population with a few hundred thousand. If you're talking about a third tier city in China you're talking about a population of over 3 million so there are colossal cities, huge opportunities." Savile Row may have invented the suit, but others are coming up with new ways of selling it back home. A Suit That Fits was the world's first online tailors - with customers able to design their own suit on its website. They offer an in-store fitting service too with now over 30 studios nationwide - at £500, it's a snip of the price of their traditional colleagues. How? rather than 'Made in Britain', in this case it's 'Made in Nepal' (SOUNDBITE) (English) A SUIT THAT FITS CO-FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, DAVID HATHIRAMANI, SAYING: "We're a tailoring company that is purely designed around how tailoring should be in a modern world. I think we respond really well to customers and customers requirements. we're there online, we're there off-line. locally to our customers .and i think the combination of how we work in a multi-channel way is really appealing to customer and that's what keeps them coming back." Savile Row has seen two takeovers so far. With cost-conscious Britain looking for more affordable products, we may see more in the future. Ivor Bennett, Reuters London