At the enormous Pacific Department Store on Shanghai’s Huaihai Road, barriers block the street entrances and windows are shuttered. The store, which was one of the largest on one of the city’s busiest shopping streets for nearly two decades, closed in January. The shell of the store now sits incongruously opposite the K11 mall, which has been thriving ever since implementing a smart re-think of the shopping mall concept a couple of years ago. The lesson of the different fates of these two shopping centers is clear—adapt or die. Retail is not declining in China, it’s just changing.
After incredible growth in recent years, e-commerce in China seems to be slowing down. One reason behind this is the high penetration rate. By 2016, 62% people in Tier 3 and 4 cities were shopping online, while the number in Tier 1 and 2 cities stood at 89%. On the other hand, consumers in China have also changed over time, now the middle class are shifting their money from cheap products to premium services and goods where experience and recognition ties take priority. So does it mean online retail will go gloomy and physical stores may return to the spotlight?
Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo has quickly found huge popularity in China based on an ethos of high quality at affordable prices. It has been steadily building its presence in China over the last decade, and now has ambitious plans to accelerate its growth, most notably through a bold expansion in its number of shops. That might seem sensible given its growing popularity—revenue soared by 21% between August 2014 and 2015 across Uniqlo globally, largely driven by an increase in Greater China revenues of 46% and operating profit of 66%. But is it now at risk of over-reaching itself, particularly given the slowing Chinese economy?
An underdog in an industry dominated by giants, sportswear brand Under Armour recently pulled off a growth miracle by increasing its quarterly revenues more than 20% in 21 consecutive quarters. The 19-year-old Baltimore, MD-based company surpassed its German competitor Adidas last year in sales in the US, only trailing Nike in the world’s largest sportswear market. And now Under Armour trying to replicate its success in global markets, especially China. What does it have going for it in the world’s second-largest consumer market?
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