A nation awaiting UK branded goods

Exporting to China opens up access to a group of middle class consumers larger in number than all of the citizens of the European Union combined – and they are willing and able to pay a premium for quality. Richard Sice, Chief Executive of Fast Track China, imagines the opportunities for businesses here in the UK.

The consultancy McKinsey outlines the reality of the Global consumer goods market in the very near future, saying: “By 2015, barring unforeseen events, more than one third of the money spent around the world on high-end bags, shoes, watches, jewellery, and ready-to-wear clothing will come from Chinese consumers in the domestic market or outside the mainland.”

It’s a frighteningly stark statistic, and one which could very well leave people in these markets reeling, if they have yet to position themselves in a way which takes advantage of this market shift.

However, here in the UK, we are at a decided advantage over those in other countries. Chinese people, like those in other Eastern cultures, such as Japan, love Brand UK. I’m not only talking about fashion items, but also manufactured goods and professional services.

As Chief Executive of Fast Track China, which offers support services complementary to those delivered by UKTI, I was recently involved in the establishment of a purpose-build Exhibition and Trading Centre, in Zhengzhou. This facility, established with the support of senior provincial government figures, will help to showcase UK firms and their products or services directly to the Chinese market, 365 days a year.

Zhengzhou is a modern city of 10 million people, which is set to double in size, is the capital city of a province of 106 million, and has a market of more than 600 million people within a two hour travel reach.

Through ourselves and organisations, such as UKTI, the support is out there, so any businesses looking to take that first step into a huge market should seek out professional help and advice.

It’s clear that some companies are nervous about, and seeking assurances around, market potential and intellectual property (IP) issues. However, there are a number of private companies, which can help with market research and IP. Advice and guidance are part of the package of export services we offer, because we know these are important, not only to those new to exporting to China, but those more experienced firms.

The other key area of support we offer is in organising sales trade missions to China, as well as bringing the market to the UK with inbound visits.

It’s one thing to make a decision to export to a market of this scale, but it is another to make a success of, and maximise, the venture. This often takes a knowledge and understanding that can only come from visiting the country, as well as having a presence in China, such as that at the Exhibition and Trading Centre in Zhengzhou.

In 2013, China had more than 2.8 million dollar millionaires, marking a year-on-year increase of 4%, and 315 dollar billionaires, up 64 from 2012. A decade earlier, there were no dollar billionaires in China.

Add this to the sheer size of a market, which is hungry for Brand UK, and any company not already exploring the potential growth China can bring, really should be asking themselves “why not?”