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EDITORIAL The Year of the Rat could also be the year of international retail growth for the UK

Year of the Rat – a year for international retail growth

China has been in the news a lot in the past two weeks and is currently experiencing something of a lockdown in the grip of Coronavirus. Right in the middle of Chinese New Year. It’s like closing down the public transport system across London and Birmingham on Christmas Eve. But China is in the news for another reason: retail.

Chinese shoppers are becoming ever-more spendy and, as we have reported many times before, increasingly looking to buy things from the UK. In fact, estimates suggest that somewhere between £750 million and £1 billion is likely to be spent in the UK by Chinese tourists each year (once the virus scare is over).

Additionally, Chinese online shoppers are looking to the UK to purchase all sorts of British goods, because they exude quality and breeding. Just like the Queen’s ‘favourite grandson’, Peter Philips, shilling Jersey Cattle Milk in Mandarin. You get the gist.

With the Brexit deal now signed, sealed and soon to be delivered UK retails need the boost that selling to China – and the Chinese visiting the UK – can give.

In fact, internationalisation of online retail is going to be one of the key grow vectors for UK retails, large and small, in the new era in which we find ourselves here in 2020 and beyond.

With a growing number of retailers expecting Brexit to have a deleterious impact on their businesses, according to a study ahead of the IRX event in April, and with the retail sector having had its worst year ever in 2019, the need to find new markets and new ways to sell are vital.

Online offers much. It did deliver a boost to UK retails this Christmas – admittedly too small to make much of a dent in falling takings, but the idea is there – and overall, globally, online retail grew again in 2019 by some 18%. Combining that with looking to overseas markets are going to be key to growth for UK retailers in 2020 and beyond.

Chinese New Year this weekend is a great place to start. While shoppers are stuck in doors in Wuhan and beyond, they will be shopping and you can tap into this. Understand what they like and how they pay are key and, while Chinese New Year is just a day, it is the start of growing your sales out there in a massive new market.

Xīnnián kuàilè – or 新年快乐, if you prefer – and let’s make the Year of the Rat a year of UK ecommerce growth.

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