An insider look at Ukraine’s luxury market

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed exclusively Mr Maurizio Aschero, Managing Partner, Maas Markets Ltd, a retail professional with over 8 years experience and expertize in Ukraine’s luxury market, having been instrumental to the introduction of over half of today’s luxury brands in Ukraine.

You are one of the pioneers of Ukraine’s luxury retail market having successfully launched several major international luxury brands. How has the market changed and what do you think are the most important challenges that Ukraine poses for both existing players and potential new-comers?

The market improved a lot, thanks God. This means that our efforts, as retailers, were not vain.  The investments, the tests and also  the failures have given good results and today we can see many Ukrainian girls, and already some young man, who are “a’ l’avantgarde “ in terms of understanding of fashion trends.

The existing players are more and more. The diarchy Helen Marlen / SanaHunt has now transformed into a pool of retailers who is re-shaping the fashion landscape of Kiev. Also, the major houses  (Prada, Gucci, Burberry) will soon follow the Louis Vuitton and Chanel path, entering the market by themselves after 8 years of partnership, mostly franchising with local retailers.

Still, the usual difficulties (custom, soviet laws and lack of local decent management) will challenge the existing retailers and will prevent many foreign brands to enter the market.

How has the Ukrainian luxury consumer changed in the past 3 to 5 years?

The Ukrainian luxury consumer changed a lot.  Elegance is replacing opulence, and the awareness of real luxury is taking the place of the mere “ I buy whatever costs a lot”. Of course, many new rich (especially those riding the wave of the new political situation) are still looking like bags of money more than elegant people, but let’s not lose the hope to see them, sometimes in the future, wearing something also cool and not so only expensive.

More than a decade since the opening of the first luxury stores in Ukraine, can we speak of luxury lifestyle? Please name the three biggest spender consumer categories, on luxury, in Ukraine.

As I told real luxury is still hiding and at the benefit of few intelligent people, and this “inner circle” does enjoy a luxury lifestyle travelling and surrounding themselves with the finest things.  The real “intelligentsja” is coming back very slowly as it has to fight with the sad reality of a country which is going nowhere.  Ten years of luxury stores didn’t give the results I expected. We retailers made money feeding the hungry bellies of lots of faked-rich consumers who disappeared with the crisis. Those left, the Survivors of Luxury,  learned how to enjoy their richness especially abroad.

The categories who are big spenders are : bankers, traders, politicians (often these 3 activities are concentrated in the same person…)

Do you agree that even a decade since opening, Ukraine’s leading luxury department store responds better to the needs and preferences of Ukrainian consumers than mono-brand stores do?

You don’t have any luxury department stores in Ukraine. Only ugly commercial centers.  All the hopes are in the Tsum, which will open in 2015 and which, it seems, will be re-shaped and managed by foreign retail professionals. Tsum will re-balance the chaotic situation of today, even if it will not be positioned as a completely luxury department store but it will be a REAL department store, of this I am sure!

Which are in your view the best performing brands with mono-brand stores in Ukraine? Why?

Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Dolce&Gabbana, Burberry. The first two because they are the only boutiques in the country and pursue the policy of being really exclusive without distributing nowhere else their goods. Dior because it has such an outstanding quality and charme, Dolce&Gabbana because it has been since 10 years the most-wanted brand in Ukraine, Burberry for its catchy bags and the ability to transform every collection in a success.

Three years ago you set up another venture, targeting a larger consumer target. Tell us more.

I understood that there were still niches to be exploited like fashion-mass market underwear, accessories and the online fashion accessories boutique. So, together with my partner and colleague Ms Tatyana Karlova, one of the most skilled retailers in CIS, we obtained the franchising rights  for Ukraine and Baltics of Yamamay, Carpisa, and other brands, for a a total of 50 stores scheduled to open within 2015 .

Also, we are launching our own brand Fabs, which is already online as and it will not retail only shoes and accessories but it will become, according to our plans, a platform offering whatever concerns an intelligent life-style connected with the most advanced online technologies. We want to interact with the new generation of customers, not to act like usual dinosaurs.  The collections of Fabs will be chosen with the help of the clients who will vote for or against our choices immediately after the buying sessions in the show-rooms. It will be a fashion-democracy!

Do you think that your customers, today, can be considered aspirational and in the future to make the transition to luxury branded products?

Many of our customers are already in the luxury segment. They just want to find something cool, convenient, but nonetheless with a luxury flair. This is exactly what Yamamay offers. Let’s not forget that Yamamay is the sponsor worldwide of Miss Universe, so it must serve also the stars of the jet-set.

What is your view about the anti-luxury sentiment and mix & match, especially among your consumers in countries like Ukraine?

Mono-branded driven luxury clients (‘total look’) are eventually disappearing! Welcome the new generation who knows how to mix a t-shirt of Zara with a jacket of Chanel, and don’t shy to show a Vlieger&Vandam bag near a Hermes foulard! Young generations are re-shaping luxury fashion, and they will send to the hospice those brands who will not adapt.