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With the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcing Coronavirus COVID-19 as a pandemic, we are experiencing one of the greatest global crises for a generation. A question we at Catesby are continually being asked is what impact is this having on the greater China retail market.

Many retail groups including those in the luxury sector were quick to revise their forecasts in early February as the outbreak started to impact China. In addition to the growing sales, the opening of the new stores and ad campaigns were halted.

While Europe and the US struggle to contain the virus, China is starting to return to a sense of normality albeit slowly. Whether you agree with the Government’s drastic measures or not, they have been effective in bringing the number of cases down significantly from six weeks ago. Hubei Province has this week lifted its travel restrictions, expect in the city of Wuhan which will lift restrictions on the 8th April. Businesses have again reopened although with certain new measures in place. Shopping malls across the majority of major cities have been allowed to reopen meaning stores are again trading although often with shorter than normal operating hours. …

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There have over the last few years been a number of commentators stating that with the emergence of eCommerce, bricks-and-mortar stores will soon be a thing of the past. While no-one can deny we are in the midst of a significant shift in the retail ecosystem, we believe these commentators to be wide of the mark. In the first part of our series looking at offline retail, we explore what the future is for bricks-and-mortar stores.

Despite the attention that eCommerce attracts, according to eMarketer, 90% of retail spending worldwide still occurs via bricks-and-mortar stores. So why is this the case? From consumer insights research we have undertaken for our clients, the majority of shoppers prefer to buy items in store especially when new to the brand. While many consumers are learning about brands and new products via online channels, retail for many remains tactile. Online provides far greater choice, but customers cannot touch and try products before buying. …

Last week the British e-commerce site, ASOS closed their China e-commerce website for the final time with all future orders being fulfilled via their international site. With China’s online sales of physical products in 2015 growing 31.6% year-on-year to USD 493 billion, this leaves us with the question — why did they fail when so many brands are scrambling for a presence on China’s ‘lucrative’ e-commerce platforms?

In this article, CR Retail’s Managing Director, James Rogers breaks-down what he believes to be the key reasons the e-commerce operator failed and ended up calling time on their China business.

Failure to Understand the Market
One of the explanations given by ASOS for the closure of their China business was due to the restrictions and bureaucracy associated with entering the local market. When they entered the market in late 2013, they made the mistake that many Brands make — they failed to fully understand the market and the complexities involved. As with all brands entering a new market, there are a number of challenges that only become apparent as and when they start trading. …


Catesby are a leading insight-driven consultancy helping brands navigate Asia’s retail and consumer markets.

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