According to a report by Linkshop, the Wangfujing Shopping Center in Lhasa is set to open by the end of 2023, strategically located in Lhasa's Liuwu New District on Beijing Avenue, close to the train station and airport transit lines. With a total area of 302,000 square meters and a commercial area of 182,000 square meters, it's set to be Tibet's largest commercial complex.

A Burst of Brands Plans reveal that the Wangfujing Shopping Center intends to introduce 350 brands. Notable mentions include Coach, UGG, Emporio Armani, and Aquascutum, all of which will be establishing a presence in Tibet for the first time. Furthermore, Rejin Fashion, under the Wangfujing Group, will be the main retailer for high-end designer brands.

Despite being the regional capital, Lhasa's commercial scale isn't comparable to other secondary cities in the eastern provinces. However, recent growth has been swift. According to Lhasa's statistical bureau, urban and rural residents had average disposable incomes of 51,591 yuan and 22,756 yuan in 2022, respectively.

Thanks to tourism, Lhasa's consumer base isn't to be underestimated. Luxury hotel brands like the St. Regis, under the Marriott Group, entered Lhasa in 2010, followed by the Lhasa Intercontinental Hotel by the IHG Group in 2014. More recently, Arabica Coffee and outdoor brand Arc'teryx have also made their way to Lhasa.

However, many businesses in the region have primarily catered to tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, or social media enthusiasts seeking the perfect photo. Even though these businesses encapsulate a high-end lifestyle, it's been challenging to generate a substantial impact to draw similar and competitively priced brands to Lhasa.

The upcoming Wangfujing Shopping Center might be a turning point. But the real shift seems to be big commercial operators, wielding significant brand portfolios, turning their eyes towards Lhasa and even the broader Tibetan market.

Brands Set Their Sights on Lhasa Earlier, the entry of Wanda Plaza brought with it brands like Lancôme, JNBY, and Tommy Hilfiger. New consumer-focused accessory brand ACC has also set up shop. Coach's move to Lhasa has drawn particular attention. In a previous interview, Yann Bozec, the Asia-Pacific president and CEO of Coach China, shared that Coach plans to open 30 new stores in the coming 12 months, some of which would penetrate emerging markets. Stores in cities like Baoji in Shaanxi and Daqing in Heilongjiang serve as examples.

However, brand expansion is not just about the company next door; it also concerns the operational capacity of the hosting mall. From mainstream to luxury, high-profile brands prioritize this, cautious about their image when venturing into third or fourth-tier cities.

A powerful and operationally experienced "game changer" is essential. However, Lhasa and the broader Tibetan market, while full of potential, lack localized business experiences due to historical gaps.

Not Just Catering to Tourists Lhasa's unique high-altitude terrain, climate, and culture mean consumer habits differ from other cities. While fashion brands aim to export their lifestyle philosophies, this is typically based on a model honed over many iterations. Finding the right balance in Lhasa will require thoughtful consideration.

It's clear Lhasa's fashion retail scene has a long-term perspective. For now, and the foreseeable future, Chengdu will remain the top choice for Tibetan consumers seeking high-end shopping.

Chengdu has already claimed its spot as China's third fashion capital after Beijing and Shanghai. In 2019, Chengdu IFS, operated by Hong Kong's Wharf, held the "Fashion Himalaya" event in Lhasa, bringing pop-up stores of brands like Chopard, MaxMara, and Ports 1961, even hosting a fashion show.

Chopard's regional manager for China, Von Berlepsch Tasso, even made a personal appearance.

According to a Chengdu IFS survey, consumers in Tibet, mostly born after 1985, have a penchant for luxury watches and jewelry. They have strong brand awareness, and their brand loyalty even surpasses some first-tier city consumers, often making larger one-time purchases.