As major international retailers such as Zara, H&M and Uniqlo expand within mainland China and other emerging markets, Chinese retailer Bosideng is turning the tables by opening its first overseas flagship store in London.
Mr. Gao Dekang, Chairman and CEO of Bosideng, said: “Bosideng has achieved significant recognition and respect in China. Now we are expanding to establish Bosideng’s international brand presence.
Bosideng’s UK CEO Wayne Zhu said: “A move into Europe has been a goal of Bosideng for some time, and we’re very excited to be launching in such a prominent location in London.”
While Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning opened a short lived outlet in the US, Bosideng is the first Chinese retailer to enter the UK market. The shop development has cost the company US$55 million, and with consumer spending in the nation decreasing, some observers consider the plan ambitious.
Whilst operating about 10 000 retail outlets in China, Bosideng is virtually unknown overseas. The company is localising to such an extent that its London products bear little resemblance to the mid priced down jackets for which it is known in China. The London store will feature an upmarket menswear collection.
Less than 10% of products at the London store will be manufactured in China, with the majority created in collaboration with British designers and produced in Italy and mainland Europe. Items from Bosideng’s Chinese shops will not be available in London, and vice versa.
Hong Kong-based entrepreneur Sir David Tang believes Bosideng may be attempting to establish itself as an upmarket brand in the UK to maintain its appeal with increasingly wealthy Chinese customers drawn to more expensive Western alternatives. He used the Chinese phrase “soaked in salt water” to explain the strategy: “If it has been accepted by the West, there is more incentive for people to buy it in China.”
Nevertheless it is questionable how appealing the Chinese brand will be to Western consumers, and the brand may succeed among overseas Chinese, students and tourist shoppers rather than local shoppers.
Marketing could play a decisive role in Bosideng’s overseas success. The company’s current website does not compare favourably with the attractive and user friendly websites of other brands, which are also integrated with social media. Western customers may also find the brand name awkward.
Zhu said the company has plans to open a store in New York and hopes that overseas locations will contribute around five percent of group revenue in five years.
With strategic marketing and a refocused online presence Bosideng may yet have a chance of expanding into Europe.