Chinese retail giants are starting to look to Europe for expansion and London is proving to be the ideal testing ground. Menswear giant Bosideng have had a six storey Mayfair headquarters and a flagship store for nearly two years now and are planning to expand into mainland Europe in the coming months. Bosideng, famous in its native China for down jackets and winter wear, has over 8,500 stores in its homeland and sees London’s large tourist shopping market and diverse ethnic make-up as the perfect European market to launch in.
In China, Bosideng is a mid-market brand with similarities to Zara or H&M’s Cos. Their launch in London has seen them position themselves differently, marketing to wearers of Hugo Boss and Paul Smith. This differentiation in brand positioning is a result of Europe already having a saturated and settled mid-market as well as Bosideng investing in new collections specifically for the European market with their shoes handmade in England and their fabrics bought from Liberty’s.
London’s Bosideng store oozes confidence and sophistication with a slick deep red and satin black interior finish. They’ve achieved the desired contemporary look with accents of traditional Asian styling with Chinese wooden screens and lanterns incorporated into their merchandising design. Lead products will always be displayed in red and this is highlighted with elevated pedestals for lead mannequins. Although you may miss these Eastern design touches, there’s no missing the mandarin script under their identity and their mandarin infused product labels. They’re certainly proud of their origins.
Europeans aren’t too used to Chinese brands launching in their markets. The traffic has largely been in the other direction, with Burberry, LVMH and Victoria’s Secret all posting profits across the Asian region. These brands have had to adapt recently as sales in China have cooled. More lately we’ve also seen the rise of Chinese design, and partnerships designed to promote local talent designing exclusively for Chinese tastes, such as Hermès collaboration with Shang Xia.
According to a contact in Bosideng London, there are some challenges for the brand to overcome. Consumers are surprised by the cost, expecting a Chinese retailer to be ‘cheap’ and ‘budget’ but Bosideng is far from that. The quality of its products offers the customer considerable value for money but the brand is still on a journey to shift ingrained perceptions.
Moving forward there will of course be a closer relationship between Chinese brands and western markets. ‘Eve’ is the first Chinese fashion label to exhibit at London Fashion Week and their expansion into London may be imminent. It’s important for any brand to have a clear and memorable story to tell our market. Creating a new language that builds new ideas about Chinese design, introduces us to a new style aesthetic, and fuels desirability will be a prerequisite if Chinese brands are to stand confidently shoulder to shoulder with their European counterparts.