UK urged to ease up on visa curbs

Updated: 2015-05-04 13:12

By MATT HODGES(China Daily)

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He built on this by flying over China's top bloggers to Britain and giving them carte blanche to pick a new wardrobe. He showered them with VIP treatment from perfumers and shoe assistants then sat back and smiled as they relayed their experiences to their disciples, thus further whetting appetites in China.

Of course, the move could have backfired by breeding frustration. Residents of the Chinese mainland still cannot buy goods directly from Harrods online. However, those who cannot afford the air ticket to London may resort to couriers on leading e-commerce sites like Taobao, who will deliver for a mark-up.

In Shanghai, the three-day event, dubbed the Great Festival of Creativity Shanghai, was also part of a global campaign to sell the UK as a destination rich in both tradition and innovation.

"We are here hoping to spread the word about British luxury in China," Ward said, adding that Harrods may consider opening one of its famous tea rooms in Shanghai. These are already featured at some airports in Asia including Hong Kong, Macao and Bangkok. But he dismissed as groundless rumors that he was scouting locations for an Asian flagship for the department store itself.

Harrods has posted record revenue each year, including during the financial crisis in 2008-09, by offering a sense of scale, theater and customer service now lacking in the British high street, he said.

Many Chinese go to Harrods just for the experience. With about 93,000 square meters at its disposal, it houses the world's biggest shoe store and the equivalent of a soccer pitch of furniture. Demand for tickets to see Father Christmas there has crashed its servers twice in recent years.

Zhang Yiwu, a shopper from one of Shanghai's neighboring provinces, said she finds Harrods to be "very generous and open. For example, it has an expensive grand piano and it lets everyone play on it. In China, there would be a big 'Don't touch' sign hanging over it."

Ward said the store doesn't "do even-keel. Every year we push the boundary of luxury. We did the Shoe Heaven (in June) and then we went on to create Salon de Parfums (in September). And then we will do the same in 2015, where we create this amazing space for evening wear."

Of its 26 restaurants, three cater to Chinese tastes. Chai Wu opened on the fifth floor in January offering Beijing Roast Duck, Alaskan king crab with soy glaze, and lotus root and lily bulb in spicy toban sauce, among other treats. Its menu was overseen by Ian Pengelley, the group executive chef.

"I won't say who it is, but we recently hosted one of the richest, top people in China," said Ward.

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