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UK premier retailers unprepared for £764m Chinese tourists could be spending in the UK, study finds

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Many of the UK’s leading retailers in London’s prime shopping outlets are inadequately prepared for the huge mass of Chinese tourists that are predicted to visit the UK, with only a very small minority having both staff that can speak Mandarin and able to accept China’s leading mobile payment platforms WeChat Pay and Alipay.

The research from JGOO, a next generation digital commerce tech company, also reveals that Chinese tourists could spend between £764 million and £1 billion in the UK this year, which could be an increase of up to 52% on 2018 and a new record. It estimates that around half of this will be spent in London.

A big part of this growth is fuelled by more Chinese tourists visiting the UK. JGOO estimates that the number of weekly flights from China to the UK increased by 22% last year when compared to 2018.  Also, the number of non-stop flight seats from China to the UK is estimated to have risen by 25% during 2019.

JGOO ran a ‘mystery-shopping’ exercise in December 2019 visiting 107 retail outlets on Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and New Bond Street, and found that 71% failed to employ Mandarin speaking staff on their shop floors.  When looking at luxury retailers alone, 56% had this.

Many of the retailers reviewed also didn’t accept mobile payment methods like Alipay run by Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial, and WeChat Pay, which is integrated into Chinese multi-purpose messaging and social media app WeChat. 

JGOO’s research found that 38% of the luxury retailers reviewed didn’t offer either of these, some 41% accepted both forms of payment and 21% only accepted Alipay.  For the non-luxury retailers reviewed, 81% didn’t offer either of the payment options, 15% offered Alipay alone and a mere 4% offered both.

Overall, just 13 of the 107 retailers reviewed by JGOO had Mandarin-speaking staff as well as accepted both WeChat Pay and Alipay. These were Chanel, Hermes, Breitling, Selfridges, Watches of Switzerland, Coach, Liberty, Vivienne Westwood, Burberry, Longchamp, Harrods, Pandora and Joseph – all of whom are seeing the benefits of a strong relationship with Chinese consumers in the UK.

JGOO’s research found retailers Loewe, Fendi, Armani, Michael Kors, Asprey, House of Fraser and Cos all had staff who could speak Mandarin and accepted Alipay.

Richard Morecroft, Director and Co-Founder of JGOO explains: “Research shows the number one pastime of Chinese tourists when visiting the UK is shopping, which explains why they have a higher propensity to shop than the average tourist. However, our research shows that even some of the UK’s leading retailers who are in the prime locations visited by Chinese tourists are not geared-up to engage with them properly and could be costing them millions of pounds a year in lost sales.”

He continues: “Nine out of ten Chinese tourists prefer using mobile payments when overseas and one in four Chinese consumers say they feel enticed to spend more if merchants offer WeChat Pay and Alipay. It is little wonder that retailers in countries popular among Chinese tourists are now rapidly adopting mobile payment systems. Around three out of four supermarkets and convenience stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, now accept Chinese mobile payment methods, as do some 71% of duty-free stores and luxury stores there.” 


Launched in London in 2017, JGOO is a next generation leader in digital commerce with forward-thinking technology at its core. Through its official partnerships with WeChat Pay and Alipay, JGOO provides brands with direct trading access to the Chinese market, connecting UK and European companies to Chinese shoppers and tourists. It not only provides a payments gateway for them to pay for British goods when visiting the country or when buying online via WeChat Pay and Alipay, but it also has a team of Chinese nationals in the UK to help clients develop social media marketing campaigns via the WeChat platform – China’s most powerful marketing tool.

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