Opinion

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Made in China: Why aren’t Chinese brands big in Britain?

3 Mins

Many of our products may be made in China, but can we truly say that we use many Chinese brands in our everyday lives? Ask yourself, in your home, how many ‘Chinese’ FMCG products do you own with a recognisable brand name? 

Beyond Huawai (actually Taiwanese), mass market penetration of Chinese brands in the UK is minimal and consumer familiarity is low. 

We have to ask ourselves why this is the case. China is a vast country and possesses an economy, though slowing, that is strongly poised for western expansion. Indeed, prominent brands such as Prada and Louis Vuitton have stores in Beijing and Shanghai that cater to a market hungry for the trappings of western luxury. 

However, the reverse is not the case and beyond ‘Shanghai Tan’, a Chinese brand with its own discernible high-street presence in the UK is a rare find.

Chinese vs western tastes

The disparity here may have something to do with the differences between Chinese and western tastes. Many marketers would cite the Chinese consumer as essentially being a ‘new consumer’ and, as such, is learning to consume in a new way. 

This translates to a different taste level than western consumers who may value a really good bargain or discreet branding instead of the opulence of newly moneyed Chinese consumers. This luxuriousness may be what is stopping Chinese brands from branching out into the western markets, hamstrung by a level of taste that won’t necessarily resonate with mainstream westerners.

Equally, there may not be an appetite for Chinese-grown, foreign marketable goods out there. 

Take the luxury market, as an example, and it is possible to say that European luxury is in a world of its own. Even the Chinese, who’ve tried to replicate the success of European industry, have met road blocks when trying to engrave a home-grown luxury brand in the minds of consumers that compares to such behemoths as Chanel, Burberry, Cartier, Hermes, Gucci and Dior.

Market access

Even though taste and branding is a significant part of the conundrum, simple issues such as market access should not be overlooked.

Arguably, market access issues remain the most common barrier facing international exporters wishing to enter new territories. These issues affect both SMEs and large companies alike, especially as each market comes with its own unique set of obstacles to overcome. 

When can Britain expect Chinese goods to become mainstream? Continue reading on page two to find out…

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