Georg Riedel does not expect to see any great takeup of his glasses in China for a generation.
The Riedel ‘Vinum’ Bordeaux glass
Riedel set up its own distribution network in China in July 2010 as a ‘strategic move,’ the 60-year-old CEO of the company told Decanter.com.
The 300-year-old Austrian firm sells the entire range of its glasses – which retail at between £20 and £100 each – through department stores and now through franchise stores, of which there are 20, with a further 30 opening this year.
‘We wanted to be there in time. We have been watching the rise of the Chinese middle class, and we are very comfortable developing glasses for them,’ Riedel – Decanter’s Man of the Year 1996 – said.
He also said it would be ‘premature’ to call the operation a succces.
‘There is no doubt that China is a waking giant, but within the time span of its development we need to be very patient. It will take 20 years: the next generation will reap the fruits of the seeds we have planted.’
The Chinese market for fine glassware is similar to the Japanese market, in that they have a culture of working with and using fine vessels of china and glass.
‘The finesse and delicacy of vessels is not new to Japanese culture and the Chinese have developed a similar appreciation.’
But, Riedel said, the problem was persuading Chinese consumers to use the glasses at home.
‘We have to teach those who buy the glasses that they are not a piece of aesthetic but something functional. Often we find that they buy them, and then keep them in the cabinet.’
Written by Adam Lechmere