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UK retailers welcome the Year of the Horse

More than a billion people around the world celebrated the Chinese New Year, with fireworks, parties and parades – including a parade of horses in Sydney! The Spring Festival is now well underway, with festivities traditionally lasting for 15 days until the Full Moon, on February 14th this year.

It’s the biggest festival of the Chinese calendar, and for many people, the longest holiday of the year. Millions of people take the opportunity to travel – whether that’s visiting family in China, or taking a long-awaited break farther afield. And for those who jet off to the UK, Europe or the United States, shopping is a big item on their to-do list.


There’s no doubting the huge value of the Chinese New Year shopping bonanza to the world economy. The holiday is a time to buy gifts for family and friends, as well as splash out on new clothes and other goods.

British luxury goods stores are a big draw for the wealthier Chinese tourists. The words “Bond Street” and “bargains” might not naturally go together for most Brits, but the prices for top designer brands are often much cheaper than in China.

Bringing home a Rolex watch, Prada shoes or a Louis Vuitton bag is the ultimate way to impress friends. According to the Daily Mail, wealthy Chinese tourists in London spend an average of £8000 during their trip. And a survey by Spectrum Insight reported that 90 per cent of visitors’ budgets went on shopping.

Stores are beginning to adapt their offerings to fit these customers. Harrods was one of the first British department stores to have a social media presence in China.  The Bond Street Association employs specialist Chinese marketing experts, while many high-end shops employ Mandarin-speaking assistants, or have interpreters on call.

But many UK retailers are still missing an opportunity to market their products. While Chinese tourists don’t expect shop assistants or hotel staff to speak fluent Mandarin, a few words or a translated website can go a long way. It can also help to learn a little about the Chinese culture, and create targeted marketing for the Lunar New Year.

They could learn from the big American brands running special promotions and campaigns to coincide with the festivities. And some French fashion houses even employ specialist “tea masters” to prepare that perfect cup of Chinese tea for their shoppers.

Britain is stepping up its efforts to reach out to these visitors.  Culture Secretary Maria Miller recently announced ambitious plans to make the UK the most welcoming European destination for Chinese tourists.

VisitBritain is launching its China Welcome campaign this spring. The aim is to  secure 650,000 Chinese visits a year by 2020, worth nearly £1.1 billion annually to the UK economy. They’ll endorse businesses that are already “China ready” and help other ones improve their efforts.

Speaking the language will be a key part of the campaign. VisitBritain will encourage the training of qualified Mandarin-speaking guides to help visitors get as much as possible out of their trip. As well as language, it’s important to be aware of culture and etiquette. For example, it’s considered polite for shop assistants to accept money or credit cards with both hands.

And of course, there’s also a big opportunity for ecommerce vendors. Asos is one major e-tailer that recently launched a dedicated Chinese website to tap into this fast-growing market.  China has the world’s largest internet population, and most have firmly embraced online shopping.
If you’re thinking about marketing your products to Chinese or other international consumers, then our language experts can help. Find out more about our services or get in touch.

Hazel Mollison

Hazel Mollison edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Italian and German at Cambridge University, she worked as a journalist for five years with regional and national newspapers. She enjoys writing about languages, translation, online marketing, and helping small businesses explore new opportunities.

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