Cheque please: West shopping centres missing out on Chinese dividend
05 Mar, 2018
The new generation of Chinese visitors arriving in the UK are searching tax-breaks on luxury goods as well as sampling Western culture.
And they offer a significant revenue stream for topline retail outlets in the South West especially if they are able to use Chinese payment methods such as Alipay.
That’s according to the Bristol and West of England China Bureau, which is partnering Destination Bristol’s drive to persuade more Chinese visitors to experience premier locations such as Cabot Circus, Cribbs Causeway and Milsom Street in Bath.
But Bureau Chief Executive Dianne Francombe believes the region will need to polish its profile as a top shopping destination if it is to increase its share of affluent Chinese visitors.
Dianne Francombe said: “We should learn to be more welcoming to Chinese Visitors and respond to their unique requirements.
“According to Visit Britain 268,000 Chinese people visited between January and September last year spending a record £557m. It’s likely more will be on the way as the Chinese economy continues to expand.”
The current Chinese New Year celebrations are one of the ‘golden weeks’ in the shopping calendar.
“Destination Bristol has engaged a Chinese social media expert to promote the region and ‘spread the word’ across the Chinese media platforms.
“But we need a concerted effort from Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities and retail centres if we are to compete with the likes of Bicester Village – which is a must-see for large numbers of Chinese visitors.
“With visitor numbers expected to rise again through 2018 we really are missing a trick – we need to persuade Chinese shoppers that it’s worth their while venturing further West than Oxfordshire!”
Bristol and West of England China Bureau fosters business links and pioneered trade and cultural links with Bristol’s sister city of Guangzhou.
But Dianne Francombe said the new generations of Chinese visitors were younger than the average visitor to the UK and they are looking for unique experiences as well as shopping opportunities. The West of England can offer these packages.
“Bicester Village has become a must-see for our Chinese visitors. Many of the business delegations we entertain in Bristol have either dropped in to Bicester on their way down or intend to drop by on their way back to London. Buying top line items here helps avoid tax on luxury goods. Brexit exaggerated this effect by devaluing sterling and putting more pounds in their pockets through advantageous exchange rate for the RMB.”
Dianne added: “Destination cities such as Bristol and Bath must ensure they can compete as high end shopping locations, in order to attract their fair share of this highly lucrative market.”