China’s retail traffic began to rebound in mid-February — but how can brands bank on this opportunity? Cosmose AI, an offline behavioral technology company, has analyzed offline retail traffic from January to March 2020. The study is based on data gathered from over 360,000 stores, including over 600 luxury and beauty brands, and major shopping malls in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Its clients include LVMH, Richemont, L’Oréal and Walmart, and more. The fresh data offers a glimpse into how brands can navigate the reality of China’s “revenge shopping” retail scene.

On a macro scale, the report highlights a few essential trends: 

  • Regionally: mainland China is recovering faster than Hong Kong and Macau and is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by June.
  • Category-wise: traffic at beauty stores is recovering faster than luxury stores, but it doesn’t mean higher transaction values compared to luxury goods.
  • City-wise: new-tier cities like Hangzhou, Chengdu, and Chongqing are recovering faster than first-tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. The political capital of the country, Beijing, has lagged behind them all.
  • For both luxury and beauty, traffic was at 60% pre-pandemic levels for all cities except Beijing by the end of March.
  • Shanghai, China’s economic hub, has recovered significantly faster than most cities.

The report also shares key takeaways on how high-end malls are recovering: 

  • Shopping malls within the same cities recovered differently.
  • In Beijing: SKP Beijing bounced back by the end of March, which was the quickest, followed by China World Mall, while the traffic at Yintai Cent In01 hasn’t shown much promise.
  • In Shanghai: Plaza 66 has already reached 70.4% of its pre-COVID-19 traffic, followed by IAPM Mall and HKRI Taikoo Hui, both over 67%, while the IFC Mall has only recovered 55.6% of its traffic.
  • In Chengdu: all malls show similar traffic trends. IFS International Finance Center bounced back to 58.3% of its previous level by the end of March, followed by Yuanyang Taiguli and Renhe Spring Plaza, while Chicony Square dropped steeply during the pandemic and has only recovered 49.3% of its traffic.

Commenting on the reason for the differences in recovery speed from mall to mall, Cosmose AI CEO and founder, Miron Mironiuk, explained: “During times of uncertainty we turn to our closest friends, the same applies to retail. Shopping malls and luxury brands who were the no.1 choice for shoppers before the crisis regained customers first.”

On the other hand, malls and brands who were struggling before the pandemic are now at a greater disadvantage than ever before. China’s post-COVID-19 fashion market is likely to turn into a “survival of the fittest” contest. The hopes of an early recovery is not going to happen to every single player operating in China, but only for those that had plenty of pre-pandemic cash reserves and a longer-term investment strategy. These players are likely to not only bounce back quicker, but more importantly, survive.





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