Why Retailers Need To Be Looking At China For Inspiration

Brands no longer operate within a single market limited by borders, language and technology. The internet has been a major driving force behind globalisation, bringing people and cultures closer together. For commerce it created a truly global economy, fuelled by speed of transport, access to information and lower wage costs.

The Chinese economy has had explosive growth over the past 30 years, and as a result western companies are keeping a close eye on the innovative ideas already adopted within the retail sector.


With a rapidly growing middle class and a government pursuing heavy investment in technology, ideas that are now commonplace in China are only just starting to appear in the UK.

China’s biggest social media app, WeChat, has offered video calling, money transfer and Uber integration for years, something that’s only just appearing within the UK. With Chinese influence, the integration of well-established apps with other aspects of life continues to grow rapidly, for example Westfield shopping centres now have specific pick-up and drop-off points for Uber.

Looking to China, more than half of luxury consumers use their mobiles to research high-end products. In a market estimated to be worth $187bn by 2024 in China alone, high end brands are quickly adapting to become experts in the Chinese market. Taking note of specific cultural differences is an easy way to boost sales and avoid causing offence.

Luxury fashion has been fighting to keep up with the rapidly changing market, and we’re starting to see significant changes to the way the industry works. Traditionally luxury fashion has been split seasonally, into Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer collections based on the seasonal split in the West. With a huge surge to the market coming from China, and the East in general thanks to a boom in middle class growth, brands are quickly realising that this current model doesn’t work.


Several brands have taken advantage of the need for instant gratification fuelled by social media, a great example of which is online clothes retailer Boohoo. Their business model is built around their ability to replicate global trends from the runway and social media in a matter of weeks. By keeping production mainly within the UK for initial small runs of clothing, they’ve created a system whereby they can trial the success of items for an extremely low risk. With this scatter gun approach they can respond to the market instantly, and items that sell well can then be put into full production. Coupled with the use of Instagram influencers posting images wearing the items and measuring their audiences.