Blog: Getting fresh (food) in China

Catherine Sleep | 2 February 2006

All eyes are on China. The country boasts a massive population with growing disposable income. Moreover, since it acceded to the World Trade Organisation in 2001, China has revised more than 2300 national laws and regulations that were inconsistent with WTO rules. Many of these served to liberalise the distribution sector, which is great news for would-be foreign entrants.

Indeed, China is attracting the lion’s share of foreign direct investment in Asia, and retailers figure prominently among the larger companies seeking a share of the Chinese consumer’s spend. Deregulation is a key part of the picture for foreign retailers seeking success in China, but market knowledge is paramount.

Western supermarket operators may not be familiar with the ways in which Chinese consumers tend to shop for, cook and eat food. Fresh food in particular is important to shoppers, and there are good reasons why wet markets remain popular shopping destinations.

Foreign supermarkets such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco can learn from existing retail channels and adapt their offering to entice more shoppers into their air-conditioned stores. But they’ll need to carry on hiring local staff and investing in education for store managers. After all, local retailers such as Lianhua are sharpening their act too, and their knowledge of the market is bound to be sharper.

One of our writers, Joe Ayling, looked in more depth at the challenges and opportunities facing fresh food retailers in China today.

Members click here to read Joe's article


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