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Alibaba’s UK boss on targeting Chinese visitors to Britain

Alibaba’s UK arm will be making a push to link British brands with visiting Chinese consumers, UK and Nordics managing director David Lloyd has told Drapers.

“We are focusing on how we can help connect businesses to the Chinese consumer wherever they are,” Lloyd explained.

”There is a huge Chinese travelling consumer – there are about 135 million outbound Chinese tourists every year.

“We are thinking about how to connect British businesses with consumers in China, but also Chinese consumers visiting Britain, or Chinese students in Britain – how we can help them to pay for goods and find the products they want.”

Lloyd said the UK arm will also be considering how to boost the offline presence of British brands.

He referenced Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma’s “new retail” strategy, which was outlined in October and aims to blend online and offline experiences, as another key focus for its UK operation.

“The second big emphasis for us is “new retail”. How do we take the best of online and bring it offline? More than 80% of retail taking place offline in China is as good, rich and varied as the retail taking place online,” said Lloyd.

Separately, Lloyd ruled out gearing Alibaba towards UK and European consumers within the short term: “Our focus in the next year or so is to help brands break the Chinese market – helping a fashion or retail brand connect with Chinese consumers, with a Chinese consumer strategy. Not so much in terms of a UK or European [consumer-facing] business – that’s not something we’re focused on right now.”

Alibaba is thought to work with around 250 British brands, including Burberry. Its London office, which is based in Covent Garden, includes a team that looks after its consumer business, Tmall, in the UK as well as business-to-business operations.

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