London: More Chinese shoppers welcome

Updated: 2013-09-27 10:30

By Cecily Liu (

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London: More Chinese shoppers welcome

A chef makes Peking duck wraps at Min Jiang, a Chinese restaurant in the Royal Garden Hotel. [Photo by Cecily Liu/]

London's hospitality sector is increasingly catering services towards the needs of Chinese shoppers, who are becoming growingly sophisticated in taste and preferences.

This trend emerged particularly strongly over the past few years prompted by a growth in the numbers and spending power of Chinese tourists abroad.

"Chinese shoppers represent the most significant, and rapidly growing, proportion of our international customer base and this trend is set to continue," says Michael Ward, managing director of the London luxury department store Harrods.

To attract Chinese customers, Harrods has recruited over 70 mandarin speaking staff, produced Mandarin store guides and recently expanded the tax return service space to help Chinese customers process tax return forms.

Ward says watches, jewellery, fashion and accessories are most popular with Chinese shoppers at Harrods, hence Harrods has put in considerable efforts to ensure a good portfolio for these sectors, including securing some exclusive items and special edition goods from partner brands.

Harrods has also launched an account on Weibo, the Chinese twitter, and WeChat, a Chinese instant messaging tool, to help customers access information on products before visiting the store.

Noticing an increase of customers over the summer months coinciding with graduation times, Harrods held a graduation promotion this year for students and their parents to have afternoon tea at the Harrods Georgian Restaurant along with complimentary professional graduation photography and Harrods 2013 Bear, he says.

The changes at Harrods are one example of how Chinese shoppers are influencing the London shopping scene. A decade ago Chinese shoppers was the 10th at Harrods, but today they are the largest by a considerable margin.

Such statistics is understandable within the context of London attracting 104,000 Chinese visitors in 2012, an increase of 28 percent from 2011 and 121 percent in 2009.

These Chinese visitors spent 140 million pounds ($224 million,165 million euros) in 2012, up 60 percent from 2011 and up 150 percent since 2009, according to British government statistics.

Such a surge in Chinese customer numbers and spending power has prompted London's shops to rapidly increase Mandarin speaking staff, and produce marketing material in Chinese.

A recent survey by London's official promotional organization London & Partners of 70 restaurants, hotels, shops and tourist attractions found that a third of them now employ Mandarin speakers.

Businesses are also providing an increasing amount of information in Mandarin for Chinese tourists, in particular brochures, menus or other literature, the survey found.

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