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UK brands shake off China fears

More British clothing and footwear brands are eyeing China as a potential market for growth, supported by a push from the government.

Brighton-based footwear and accessories brand Irregular Choice plans to debut a 3,500 sq ft store in mainland China in mid-December, while Drapers understands women’s young fashion brand Lipsy is in talks to open a concession in a Chinese department store next year.

Meanwhile, New Look plans to expand from 30 Chinese stores to 80 by the end of this year, and Superdry is gearing up for a bricks-and-mortar launch in the country in 2016.

UK businesses have long been wary about launching into China’s aggressive market, and for many those concerns were exacerbated by the devaluation of the yuan in August and talk of a slowdown in its economy.

However, during a speech at the Shanghai Stock Exchange on September 22, chancellor George Osborne said: “Whatever the headlines, regardless of the challenges, we shouldn’t be running away from China.”

On the same day, business secretary Sajid Javid attended a Superdry catwalk show at the British Embassy in Beijing.

Superdry said the Chinese clothing market, which it values at $351bn (£227bn), presents an “immense opportunity” for the brand.

“Chinese consumers have a huge appetite for British brands, so Superdry is well placed for success,” said Javid.

Meimei Ding, executive director of fashion distribution firm DFO, which has offices in Budapest, Hong Kong and Shanghai, said: “As China moves away from traditional luxury brands, the playing field has opened up with more possibilities.”

She added: “Finding a solid local partner and the right location is key. China is very big and each region tends to react very differently in terms of tastes, sizes and silhouettes.”

China’s fashion market is set to overtake the US to become the world’s largest by 2017.

Clothing sales in China have risen 11.6% to $187m (£121m) since 2013, with online sales also up 42% in the last two years, according to Fung Business Intelligence Centre.

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