China, a fabulous playground for the French Riviera companies!

Workshop on January 20 in Grasse Biotech, led by Matthieu Rochette-Schneider a specialist of the Chinese market, for local companies who came in large numbers. Interview by Isabelle Auzias for Tribuca.

What was the typology of companies interested in your workshop in Grasse?

It was extremely varied, both manufacturers and brands, startups too. Which proves that the subject China intrigues. Whether you’re there already or soon, or whether you’re wondering about going there, it’s a market that remains unmissable.

Despite popular belief, a country that willingly copies?

It’s a market like any other, a marvelous Eldorado that still is. My job is to convey and explain to brands, especially perfume brands here in Grasse, or to local manufacturers, that China is a fabulous playground, with incredible possibilities. And that yes, in China, after the Unesco recognition, Grasse is a real center of interest, which needs to be used, developed, transmitted, in favor of the local companies. For the Chinese, if you bring well-defined know-how, products and history together in one place, you’ve won, that’s what they like in France in general. That’s what they’re looking for in a foreign country: a story. Grasse, like Bordeaux for example, ticks all the boxes.

What does this Chinese market represent?

Beyond the figures, the size and possibilities are unbelievable: we are flirting with 1.5 billion inhabitants, the middle class is multiplying day by day. Between 2025 and 2030, 50% of global consumption of luxury goods will be Chinese. The real question is, how are we going to use this appetite, this love for French brands? Luxury, know-how, quality, these are French assets far ahead of other countries. What has changed since the Covid is the phenomenal acceleration of cities that were not in the primary targets of luxury, we are talking about cities of 15 million inhabitants, where consumer demand is enormous and where the development costs can be a bit lower, while favoring a strong creativity, compared to Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou.

How to approach it?

First of all, you have to be interested – really – in understanding Chinese society, how it works. Watch movies, consult blogs… And the best way is to have a team approach, why not by creating a small “China” unit in your company. It is also necessary to have contacts on the spot, known and recognized, to know how to surround yourself, via Business France or the French Chamber of Commerce, they are the ones who will prepare you in a few steps. They will also be your eyes and ears when you are not there. Finally, you have to arm yourself with business plans and courage. In China, there are permanent surprises, often good, but a well-defined roadmap is important to stay on course. If you have the right speech, the right energy, you will always find someone in front of you who will be the right contact in the right province, for the right project, and that is quite fabulous. The right interlocutor will depend on the good understanding of local regulations. Legal in China contributes to success, like marketing or communication. The question of the health registration of products, in particular, is a key point.

Is being French an advantage ?

Clearly, the sympathy is immediate, but beware, you also carry the pressure to disappoint. Without forgetting that we must respect and integrate Chinese culture into our brands, it is increasingly significant.

What’s your history, in relation to perfume and China?

“I am not at all from the olfactory sector, but it is a real passion, which I have exploited professionally. We have always thought, for many years, that the Chinese would like to go towards luxury. Culturally, it is a mistake to think that they don’t like perfume, in their ancient culture there is perfume.It is a culture linked to taste, to smell” For three years, requests from French companies wishing to set up and/or develop their activities related to perfumery in China have increased. And gradually, Centdegre China pivoted from design agency to consulting agency, surfing on its practice and network. “On the other hand, having an intermediary who supports you, who coaches you, is imperative. As in any other markets. No one gets started in the United States alone either, and yet for some reason (that I don’t really get), we find it normal…” Is China waiting for Grasse? “In the world of perfume, in China, Grasse is a legitimate landmark. French know-how too, whether it is a question of creating a brand and distributing it locally, or to associate it. Integrating a part of Grasse ecosystem over there, I believe in it.” In a country-continent where luxury is everywhere, including -already- in perfumes.

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