Fashion giants take to the web in China

14 September 2012

BEIJING: Neiman Marcus, Macy's and Gap are among the companies seeking to enhance their online retail presence in China, and thus attract the country's growing number of fashion-conscious shoppers.

Neiman Marcus, the luxury retailer, has formed a tie-up with Glamour Sales Holding, an ecommerce group based in Hong Kong. It supported this move with an investment of $28m, and set the goal of trading digitally by Chinese New Year in January 2013.

"We are going to have a lot of work to do to educate the consumer about Neiman Marcus," Karen Katz, its chief executive, told Bloomberg. "What is important is this message of history, heritage and authenticity because they don't know our brand."

Alongside selling more shoes and handbags online than in the US, the firm's China site will offer more products for men than in America. Both male and female buyers in China are increasingly "in-the-know", Katz added. "That shift really plays into where our strengths are," she continued. "We are great editors of product."

Macy's, the department store chain, first started selling a selection of its products on the web in China through an alliance with FiftyOne, an agreement which spanned over 100 nations.

Earlier this year, it developed this strategy by partnering with VIP Store, the parent of, a platform selling in-season luxury and fashion lines. Macy's also invested $15m in VIP Store.

"International expansion is of long-term interest to us," Jim Sluzewski, Macy's senior vice president, corporate communications and external affairs, said. "But we want to learn as much as we can before making substantive decisions about the future."

Milly, the designer fashion label, recently began selling its products on a new site,, which offers items from around 80 brands. Andy Nshrin, CEO of Milly, said: "It was a way to enter China strategically."

Shangpin, which has been backed by investors including The Walt Disney Company, estimates the average online transaction in China stands at $31. Its website targets a potentially higher-spending group.

"We now have a new generation of Chinese women, of professional women," Winnie Foon, Shangpin's vice president for global merchandising, said. "[They are] looking for clothes for the office, for the weekend."

Gap, the apparel chain, set up a Chinese online retail site in 2010, and has received orders from over 330 cities to date. It also partnered with Tmall, a unit of Taobao, China's biggest ecommerce hub, in 2011.

"No one makes money from ecommerce in China except Taobao," said Francis Cheung, from CLSA, the brokerage. The company reports that China's ecommerce market is worth $25bn a year.

Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff