Bicester Village and Chinese tourists – a love story

What is the biggest tourist attraction for Chinese tourists visiting the UK?

Buckingham Palace. You would be right.

What about the second biggest?

No, not The London Eye.

It’s Bicester Village. The designer outlet shopping centre based in Oxfordshire.

This is where Chinese tourists flood to get their latest fix of designer goods at a discounted price.

How this has come about


Bicester gets over 6.4 million visitors a year, a million which are Chinese tourists. Three in four Chinese visitors travel to Bicester aided by Mandarin signs that have been installed at London’s Marylebone station. Bicester Village even has its own marble floored train station.

Taken that in China there is a hefty tax on all luxury goods and being able to claim VAT back. Chinese tourists save around 40% on most items. It’s a very enticing offer.

With over 160 designer stores dotted along its 1.2 miles strip (the same as Oxford Street and the Champs Elysee), some are even going as far as comparing it to the strip in Las Vegas. Maybe not quite yet…

Bicester Village first opened its doors in 1995. Their success has really come from their close relationship with brands. And designing an environment in which aligns itself with the luxury market. The matching of the two has created exponential growth for Value Retail who owns Bicester Village.


Why it works well for brands


Why it works well for brands is because they can widen their net and get in front of people who might not typically engage with them. Gucci chief executive Marco Bizzarri told investors that “the overlap between consumers, between the off-price and the full price, is very, very limited, so with the off-price with the old collection I can talk to a customer that will maybe never come into our full-price shops. On those, I can start creating the desire for this customer to move to full price.”

Bicester Village and its brands play on this desire perfectly. Rewarding both sides in the process. That fact we all have a huge desire to be seen to have a certain lifestyle and if we can be associated if the brands that portray that (at a discounted price tag) then it’s a win-win.

The opportunity to tap into the Chinese tourist market is huge. Bicester Village is in a very small minority of companies that are actually making the most of it.

Go straight to the source


The other opportunity is brands going straight to source, in China. Many luxury brands have shops in China but really aren’t making the most of the opportunity. Having a physical store is now almost secondary now. Having a bullet proof online marketing strategy is what will really impact and differentiate yourself in such a competitive market.

Many western brands are trying to implement what works online here rather than what works locally in China. Platforms like WeChat are leading the way. Instead of using eight different apps, you can pretty much do anything in the one app.

This is exactly where you should be concentrating your efforts. Where your customers hang out online. It gives your current and prospective customers information that is accessible and on demand. It makes it easy for them.

China’s rising middle classes having money to spend. A desire to wear the latest trend. Their all online. If brands don’t respond fast enough, they will become irrelevant quickly. If your brand does act now you will certainly reap the rewards and be able to dominate an ever-growing market.

If you would like to chat about how you could expand your brands’ online presence in China. We would be more than happy to share the work we’ve done and how we’ve helped brands like yours. Please get in touch here

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