Beauchamp Place, the once-famous street behind Harrods and home to the legendary San Lorenzo restaurant, is not the most likely scene for a retail revolution, but in a drive to attract more high-spending Chinese tourists, several shops are working together to roll out acceptance of WeChat Pay and AliPay.
Working with payment service company SafeCharge, four leading shops in the street – McKenna & Co, Lalage Beaumont, Grace Han and Gladwell Patterson – are all piloting simple technology that allows them to easily take payments from these leading Chinese payment tools.
In addition, the move to WeChatPay means that not only can they take China’s most popular mobile payment mechanism, but can also use the social site to show tourists in the local area that they are there and ready to do business.
Located at the heart of Knightsbridge, Beauchamp Place is one of London’s most prestigious and iconic shopping destinations. Risen to fame during the late 70’s with the establishment of luxury shops and Nouvelle Cuisine restaurants, it set itself apart for being able to provide an exclusive shopping experience to customers from all over the world.
Having recently witnessed an increase in the number of Chinese customers visiting the area, local merchants saw an opportunity to embrace technology as a strategic differentiator in order to become more attractive and provide the shopping experience these customers expect.
According to statistics from the UK China Visitor Alliance (UKCVA), the number of Chinese visitors to the UK soared by more than 150% in the past five years, injecting billions of pounds into the local economy.
Having recognised the business opportunity presented by the ever increasing number of Chinese tourists willing to pay with either WeChat or Alipay, Beauchamp Place began the rollout of the SafeCharge Point of Sale app across its well-known brands, enabling merchants to process QR code-based transactions for the most frictionless tap-and-go shopping experience.
For retailers the process is simple: they sign up with SafeCharge, download the point of sale app onto a smart device and they are ready to take payments from Alipay and WeChat. The shopper brings the item they want to buy to the cashier, who scan it, enters the price and selects WeChat or Alipay. This then produces a QR code on the merchant’s device, which the shopper scans with their smartphone running WeChat and the payment is made.
“Beauchamp Place is the latest milestone in our journey to provide local merchants with the most innovative payments technology to cater for savvy Chinese visitors expecting to pay with their preferred mobile payment method of choice,” explains Michael Lane, VP Channel Development, SafeCharge. “This collaboration follows a wider trend across the country, which we pioneered in 2017 by rolling out the first WeChat Pay solution at the point of Sale in the UK, at London’s Camden Market. With Chinese tourism expected to continue to grow, we look forward to working with new merchants willing to provide the best shopping experience and highest conversion rates.”
The unlikely tie-up between some of the most established and seemingly stuffy retailers in London and such cutting edge mobile tech is encouraging as it shows that everyone and anyone in retail can evolve and that tech isn’t always hard to embrace.
According to Catherine McKenna, Director and co-founder of antique jewellery store McKenna & Co, one of the first adopters of the plan, “We were introduced to it by Penny Mountbatten, who is an ambassador for tech and business in China. There has been a huge forward flow of Chinese consumers into the UK because they are very interested in UK goods – they used to want labels, now they want something really unique, such as vintage designer pieces such as Cartier.”
WeChat Pay helps connect these shoppers with the right retailers who are curious about what else they can find in London to buy.
McKenna continues: “It is a completely different system to the traditional credit card system: it is very tech. But two doors down a new Chinese restaurant is opening and the owner told us all about it. Why it is very interesting to us is that Beauchamp Place is between Harrods and Harvey Nicks on one side and the museums on the other. If you have WeChat customer in Harrods, it will come up that there is a cluster of WeChat customers in the area – which encourages them to come. For us this is really interesting as it them confidence, gives us confidence and is a ‘bridge of introduction’ which is really useful. It really is like an introduction.”
Likewise, Nick Flynn, PR and marketing manager for high-end handbag maker Grace Han, also sees the social media-payment link as a vital part of the solution’s attractiveness.
“This store is the only one in the world where you can buy a Grace Han handbag and being in Knightsbridge we always realised that tourism was going to be important to us. The stores here that succeed are ‘destinations’ and the Chinese customer is increasingly important and we wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible for them to spend and to maximise the marketing opportunities of working with WeChat.”
Flynn had already noticed that other stores in London such as Liberty were already taking WeChat Pay, as of course was Harrods, and it seemed like a natural fit. “We’ve had meetings with Global View, who handle all our tax refunds for overseas customers, and they are partnering with us to help market to tourists overseas, so taking WeChat and AliPay makes sense.”
Across the road at high-end fashion boutique Lalage Beaumont, the solution is up and running and is already meeting demand.
“When we were approached by SafeCharge to see if we wanted to install WeChat Pay and AliPay we were delighted.,” says the stores eponymous owner and fashion designer, Lalage Beaumont. “We had noticed that when Chinese visitors have been in our store they wanted to pay with this new technology and we were disappointed not to be able to accept these payments.”
Beaumont continues: “We are very happy that we now have this installed and can see that it is a very convenient way for customers to pay. We believe that this new technology is the way of the future and other card providers will be adopting it before long. As we are close to Harrods, we often see Chinese tourists in the area and we are very happy to welcome them to our shop and to be able to offer a brand that is unique to London.”
Images: InternetRetailing Media Services/Paul Skeldon