We all know that the Chinese love of all things luxury is driving cognac sales in the east, but family run Camus Cognac has found success in China that have surpassed even their wildest dreams.
In an interview with INSEAD Knowledge, president of Camus Cognac, Cyril Camus, gave a frank and honest view of how in 2005 he was considering giving up with his century and a half old family business. The large, virtually corporate world of the large cognac houses virtually held the monopoly on sales, making it harder and harder for the smaller brands to compete. And it was almost a last ditch attempt that saw Camus decide to branch out to the Chinese market to try and claim their corner of the market.
But rather than try to compete with the ‘big four’ and the symbolic status of luxury goods in China, Camus ingeniously targeted a rather more niche segment of Chinese society. The fifth generation, family run firm simply created a marketing ploy that said – here we are, if you like what you see then our product is available to you.
And it worked!
They built their Chinese import and distribution strategy from scratch, which has now led to them running five separate retail stores in Chinese cities. 2011 saw the opening of Maison Camus – a location dedicated simply to the appreciation of Camus products. No gizmos, no gadgets, no music, no bling – just a place to enjoy all that Camus has to offer.
And surprisingly this is now more than just cognac. In order to fit in with the Chinese way of doing business, the cognac house has diversified into distribution in other areas. These include champagne, wine, coffee, cutlery, serving trays and even teapots!
As Camus explains, all of this is part of the same world. And the Chinese like to purchase from a company they know and trust. So if they like your cognac, then in China you’re expected to also be able to supply the ideal glass to drink it from. This means that Camus effectively has become a distributor for other, well-established brands that simply don’t have a presence in China just yet.
Of course, Camus is not resting on its laurels, and is well aware of what over-reliance on a single market can do to a brand. So, with memories of Japan firmly in the forefront of their mind, they’re looking to create a balanced geographical mix of product sales. This includes the emerging markets of Russia and Vietnam, and also to grow sales in established markets such as the U.S.
Having learned a great deal from their self-led distribution network in China, they’re now keen to do the same in the U.S. So with this firmly in mind, Camus is already in the process of setting up their own independent export and distribution in North America.
And today, with Cyril Camus based full time in Beijing, and the firm employing around 300 staff on a global scale, things are certainly looking up for Camus Cognac, and just goes to show what a difference six or seven years can make…