Despite the enthusiasm of Chinese consumers for online shopping, most still prefer purchasing luxury products at bricks-and-mortar stores. These enable them to see, touch, feel and try out products. Besides, it helps to enjoy high-end customer experiences such as refreshments, invitations to private lounges, and other customized services.International Fashion Fair will introduce you to this article.
Clothing occupies 1/3 of all online shops. The three most popular e-commerce websites for clothes distribution in China are Taobao, Tmall and JD. Forecasts show that 52% of total revenue will come from online sales in 2020.
Though offline channels attract less traffic than online, they play a more important role in the purchase stage, accounting for 60 percent of all transactions. Offline conversion is almost 4.5 times as high as online. Chinese consumers buy 43 percent of unbranded clothes online. However, they tend to buy branded clothes in physical retail stores. When it comes to branded clothes distribution in China, offline channels account for 80 percent of sales.
Particularly in the luxury sector, offline stores are still an important marketing and sales channel, where consumers are engaged in a highly experiential way through activities and events that reflect the brand image of the retailer. According to a report by Tencent, in 2017, 95% of luxury purchases were made offline versus merely 5% of luxury purchases done online. Taking Louis Vuitton as an example, China has the third place in the ranking of countries with the biggest number of LV physical stores. It shows the importance of physical clothes distribution in the Chinese luxury sector.
However, between 2015 and 2017, 138 new leading luxury brand stores were open in China, yet 144 stores were closed, therefore the aggregated number of the leading 20 luxury brand retail stores fell slightly down to 1,119 in 2017, compared to 1,125 shops in 2015. It can reflect the growing importance of the e-commerce in China, as more and more consumers choose to shop online.
Fast fashion brands continue to open offline stores
Companies with ambitious expansion plans include European company C&A Mode, which has more than 40 stores and plans to have 150. The Japanese brand Uniqlo, one of the first entrants into the scene of the fast fashion industry in China, plans to open 100 new fashion stores in China and already holds 2.4% of all apparel and retail footwear values.
Foreign fashion brands focus on offline ‘flagship stores’ in China
A number of players have expanded local store networks and launched their first/ largest global flagship store in the country. For example, in June 2019, Spanish fast fashion brand Mango signed a cooperation agreement with Hangzhou Jingzhe Clothing Co., Ltd. to accelerate its development in Asia, especially in the China market. Under this cooperation agreement, the brand will further develop both online and offline channels – it plans to open 16 physical stores in China.
Brand stores in China dominate in terms of clothes distribution in China
At the moment, in Asia – and in China in particular –mono-brands dominate the market. More precisely, 95% of the market in China is mono-brand retail stores. Adidas alone has 11,281 stores in China. The only exception in Asia is Japan, which already has a mature market. Nevertheless, the multi-brand trend is constantly evolving.
Multi-brand stores are rising in China
Department stores in China are still an important channel for clothing sales. According to the statistics, in 2005, the monthly sales of clothing in the top 100 shopping malls were 4.9 billion yuan. 44% of the total amount, with an average sale of 100 million yuan, indicating that despite the rapid development of the apparel wholesale markets in various regions, large department stores is still the main channel for clothes distribution.
COVID-19 outbreak in China influenced the clothes industry in China. Discretionary categories, such as food service outlets, apparel stores, and department stores were hit hard during the crisis and their recovery has been slow. Absolute traffic levels fell dramatically in all categories. Some 80 percent of apparel stores have reopened, but footfall in discretionary categories is still 40-50 percent below pre-COVID-19 levels. To engage with these dynamics, hard-hit categories such as apparel have ramped up their digital activities. In February, when coronavirus struck China hard, Taobao saw the number of livestream sessions on its app double. It is a sign to the e-commerce platform that brands are relying more on livestreaming to get customers.
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