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Luxury brand in Paris apologizes to Chinese customers

(People's Daily Online)    17:06, April 28, 2018

Fashion icon Balenciaga and upmarket retailer Printemps have officially apologized to Chinese customers after a video clip of security guards mistreating a Chinese shopper in a Balenciaga shop in Paris went viral online.

The incident, which took place at a Printemps department store in Paris on April 25, has led to an online uproar among the Chinese public. According to the 5-second video clip circulating on Chinese social media, a Chinese man was dragged from a queue by French security guards, with several Chinese shoppers protesting and expressing their dismay over the misconduct at the scene.

According to media reports, the victim was trying to defend his mother, who criticized some local queue jumpers and was then threatened by them. Security guards in the shop reportedly spared the locals but pushed the Chinese shopper away, while a shop manager is alleged to have verbally assaulted the Chinese customers.

The incident has enraged Chinese netizens, who have initiated an online campaign to boycott Balenciaga. The hashtag BALENCIAGADISCRIMINATESCHINESE has garnered over 9 million views in just three days on Sina Weibo, while the brand’s social media accounts have been inundated by a flood of angry comments from Chinese internet users, who demand a thorough investigation and a proper apology.

In response to the incident, Balenciaga issued an announcement on Sina Weibo on Saturday, in which it said the company “sincerely apologizes to all Chinese customers present at that time,” noting that the staff members involved in the incident have since been suspended, while a thorough investigation is now underway.

“The House is endeavoring to reach customers impacted by the incident in order to individually apologize,” read the announcement.

The apology seems insufficient to pacify the wrath of Chinese netizens, who later criticized Balenciaga for only issuing an unnoticeable apology that expired after 24 hours on Instagram, adding that the brand has been deleting unfavorable comments written in English on its social media accounts outside of China.

“Balenciaga is trying to sugarcoat the discriminatory incident. The difference between the apologies it posted on Chinese and foreign social media platforms shows that the company is not taking the incident seriously, and we are definitely not going to roll with the punches,” wrote a netizen on Instagram.

Both Balenciaga and Printemps cannot be reached for comment.

The growing presence of Chinese buyers has significantly boosted the global luxury goods industry, but discriminatory incidents targeting Chinese have increased in recent years. In February, the World Duty Free Group that runs its business at London Heathrow Airport apologized after Chinese customers accused it of discrimination over its VIP voucher policy, which charged Chinese shoppers extra money.

Meanwhile, according to McKinsey & Company’s report in 2017, each of the 7.6 million Chinese households spend an average of RMB 71,000 on luxury goods each year, which is twice what French households are spending, while Chinese consumers account for almost a third of the global luxury market. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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