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UK retail’s exodus to China continues

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More and more British retailers are expanding into China, eager to follow in the footsteps of the successful ventures of other British companies such as Burberry and Clarks. According to a recent report by HSBC, of the 10 fastest-growing export markets in the world, 6 are in Asia.

Notable among this second wave are Topshop and Miss Selfridge, whose parent Arcadia Group have signed a partnership with Chinese online retailers ShangPin.com (owner Sir Philip Green had already opened a Topshop store in Hong Kong to signal his determination to take on China).

ShangPin is the largest luxury fashion online shopping platform in China; they have more than five million customers and will be selling TopShop’s products online. Sir Philip Green stated, “we decided to partner with Shangpin.com because they demonstrated their capacity to operate brands and understand marketing and brand building”.

If the spending habits of Chinese tourists to the UK are anything to go by, then the future looks bright for UK retailers willing to take the plunge in China. According to a recent survey, the average Chinese tourist spends almost £650 a day (excluding accommodation). The opportunity to buy authentic goods at a reasonable price is a key factor in attracting Chinese tourists to the UK. Not only is this a huge boost to domestic British retailers, but it also raises brand awareness among the Chinese when they return home, opening up the possibility of exporting British brands to China.

As the British government faces added pressure from business leaders to ‘streamline’ the tourist visa application process (Chinese tourists currently have to apply for a second visa specifically to visit Britain in addition to the general European visa). Creating a single pan-European visa would encourage Chinese tourists to travel to the UK more frequently. Iris Cai, Chinese behavioural specialist, said “In Chinese people’s eyes, we say that good products made in the UK are good quality and we think the services and products are very innovative and creative.”

Other retailers to have established a presence in China include Tesco, Zara, and most recently Argos, although maintaining a strong presence and catering to the specific needs of Chinese consumers is not easy.

There is significant demand for a lot of sectors in China such as fashion, food, technology and software. Above all, however, is a strong interest in British fashion, particularly a desire among the wealthy in China to express their individuality through the variety of British brands on offer. Social media has helped to publicise and spread the popularity of TopShop’s venture in China, with customers uploading and sharing outfit combinations.

Arcadia will be introducing Miss Selfridge from September, which will join TopShop on the Arcadia website. If the popularity of the TopShop store in Hong Kong is anything to go by, it seems likely that the brand’s expansion into China will also be a success.

Published on Tuesday 19 August by Editorial Assistant
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