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In a world of global commerce, what does London stand for?

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In a world of global commerce, what does London stand for, asks Chloe Rigby, as the dot London domain, BRC/Google figures show fast-growing international searches for UK apparel terms, and Burberry takes London to Shanghai to unveil its new retail presence in the city, both online and off.

Burberry took London to Shanghai as it unveiled its new flagship store for the Chinese city. Visitors to last week’s launch of the Burberry Kerry Centre store made their way along a paved London street into a purpose-built venue styled after the British brand’s Regent Street flagship store. There a British soundtrack, including live performances from Ed Harcourt and Paloma Faith, accompanied models clad in the brand’s trademark trenchcoats and wielding Burberry umbrellas in a performance that ended with British model Cara Delevingne flying above the audience.

It was, said Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer and chief executive designate, “a celebration of everything we stand for – our Britishness, our belief in creativity and innovation and our authentic heritage.” He ended: “It connected our worlds – from London to Shanghai.”

But the event was also a showcase of British digital expertise, with the event previewed and followed on social media streams from Facebook to Sina Weibo with a parallel event held on mobile messaging platform WeChat. At the same time, the brand opened its official Burberry store. “A luxury brand-first,” said the Burberry statement, “the collaboration reflects a shared commitment to offering Chinese consumers the best luxury experience.”

The event fits into a sense of Britishness as one that has value in today’s global commerce world. Figures out yesterday from the BRC and Google confirm that Burberry is tapping into a growing global appetite for Britishness – especially when it comes to clothing.

Smartphone searches from China for UK apparel grew by 68% in the first quarter of 2014, compared to the same period in the previous year, the figures showed, while tablet searches rose by 28% and across all devices by 50%. From Russia, smartphone searches were up by 104% and from India by 111%.

And while all international apparel searches were up by 43% over a smartphone, luxury apparel searches, which would include Burberry, were up by 34%.

Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said of the figures: “UK clothing and footwear retailers are already world-beaters. These new BRC-Google numbers show that they are continuing to improve and expand on their online and multichannel offers, increasing their appeal to international markets and boosting the economy with their exports. It’s particularly impressive to see the strength of women’s clothing brands and our department stores shining through in these figures.”

She added: “This innovation and good use of new technology explains why the UK is now the world’s second biggest online retail exporter. We will be working hard with government to help this growth continue and give retailers all the support they need to attract even more new customers from international markets.”

The success of retailers from across Britain cannot be overlooked. But it’s also notable that in the new world of global commerce, Burberry’s shorthand for Britain is, in fact, London. It’s in just that spirit that the new dot London domain name opens tomorrow for registrations. Retailers and others have 90 days during the so-called ‘sunrise’ period to register .London web addresses, with priority given to those who have trademarks already registered with ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse

Jan Corstens, worldwide project partner, Trademark Clearinghouse and partner at Deloitte, says the date is a milestone one for London.

“With a whole host of new web extensions currently launching on the Internet,” he said, “.London is certainly one of the most anticipated arrivals – where businesses, organizations and individuals who want to associate themselves more closely with London online will soon have the opportunity to do so.”

Roland LaPlante, senior vice president at Afilias, also believes the date is a historic one.

“Every major city has developed its own ‘brand,’ and these brands can now be promoted via their own top level domains (TLDs),” he says. “.London joins .Berlin and soon .Vegas, .Stockholm, .Helsinki, .Istanbul and others will launch. Will this create an unfair advantage for cities who did not apply this time? ICANN is already being lobbied to open a next round soon, and the expected success of .LONDON and others will certainly add to the pressure. Afilias is providing technical support for many of these, and looks forward to a future where every major city has its own domain in on the Internet.”

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