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Huang Xiaoming Invited to Both Harrods and Selfridges for In-store Appearance
Harrods and Selfridges invited Chinese film and pop heartthrob Huang Xiaoming to make a personal appearance in each store.

The London Times devoted a three page spread to the rise of the Chinese shopper, and states that many of London's top-end stores are working very hard to attract the influx of high spending Chinese tourists. Some offer worldwide shipping, some hire multi-lingual staff, some offer later summer opening hours, but only Harrods and Selfridges had their finger on the pulse by inviting Chinese film and pop heartthrob Huang Xiaoming to make a personal appearance in each store. So far the Chinese are known to shop at the higher end of the retail shopping scale and Avery Oates confirms that unlike the Japanese who will venture into the high street when looking for something quirky and offbeat, for the Chinese shopper "It's all about investment in luxury brands. They are very brand driven."

Chinese visitors to London are part of the affluent middle class, who now that visa restrictions have been relaxed, want to enjoy London's buzzing retail scene as much as the culture on offer. A weak pound against the yuan and smaller import tariffs and taxes mean a whopping 30% saving on similar goods bought in China.

Research has shown a step change in Chinese spending patterns. Gone are the days of bling and flashy logos, Chinese shoppers today are more discerning than those of only five years ago.

Though status symbols still play a part, their tastes have evolved and they are more sophisticated. They want people to know they are wearing luxury but not in an obvious way. Times journalist Carolyn Asome states that a typical outfit would likely be along the lines of  "a Burberry trench, Christian Louboutin flats and a Céline tote" which could easily pass for "the uniform of a hip, albeit wealthy Londoner." Thomas Charvet, a retail analyst at Citi, agrees that tastes are becoming more subtle, that "there's a kudos from admitting you bought your bag abroad"and that "wealthier inhabitants from tier one cities like Beijing and Shanghai want to differentiate themselves from those living in tier two cities." This might mean the move from a Louis Vuitton monogrammed bag to a more discreet one from the Hermès stable.

Grace Lam, a fashion editor at Vogue China also agrees that Chinese shopping habits have changed, that they now have a more considered approach and research avidly on the internet or from high-fashion magazines so they can make more informed choices. That they are less obsessed with the latest must-haves, and will experiment more with a toned down palette and even with costume jewellery when previously bold statement colours and only real stones would have been de rigueur. "They're much more experimental with catwalk fashion now, and realise that their clothes do not need to shout."

At Harvey Nichols the Chinese are now tending to favour the understated classic labels like Alexander Wang and Céline. Perrin bags, a Parisian tote which is neither heavily branded nor too showy is "flying off the shelves." Matches states that the most frequently bought brands by Chinese are by Balenciaga or Chanel vintage, and that they are less inclined towards a showier Dior snake print bag.

This same trend is seen online. Net-a-Porter reveals that the Chinese are opting for J Brands very-low key khaki Houlihans, and equally understated Proenza leather satchels. Similarly Mulberry's Alexa and Bayswater styles in a quiet conservative colour such as oak are also a big hit.

So why all the research into tempting the Chinese new clientele? Well sheer numbers and financial spending power might give us a clue. According to Sally Scott, marketing director for Selfridges, the Chinese rank in the top five biggest overseas spenders. Their average spend in Mulberry's Old Bond Street store in September was £582.61, and last month the company reported  79%  rise in sales and credits the Chinese market for 30% of this. LVMH is showing double digit growth in both fashion and leather accessories, and Burberry reported an 18% sales growth.

The Japanese used to be the ultimate consumers of all things luxurious, followed by the Russians, the Arabs and  the Indians but according to Jace Tyrell director of communications for New West End Company which represents 600 retailers in London's West End, "all that looks set to change."

According to a survey by VisitBritain, by 2014, 204,000 Chinese will visit the UK. Nigel Dasler the vice-president of Global Blue UK, the company that created tax free shopping and which has reported a rise of 313% in Chinese shoppers over the past three years, predicts that the figure will rise a further 50% in the next 18 months. He also confirms that "China is responsible for the highest retail spend in the UK."

So, the highest retail spend coupled with an ever increasing number of Chinese visiting the UK, eh? It looks like Huang Xiaoming won't be the only one making an expensive in-store personal appearance in London this year.
  Source: yitrends

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