Chinese people buy too much stuff, Selfridges has to call in the Cavalry

I remember having a conversation not so long ago with a SA on a Japanese make up brands’ counter in Selfridges, where she told me that Chinese customers were great because they usually shopped in groups, and bought in force ‘without even asking the price’. As she was saying this, 3 young Chinese girls were jabbering on in Mandarin, in matching puffa jackets, and swatching nail polishes to their hearts content.

I looked around and thought; this place is full of Chinese people. Shopping. The Chanel counter. The Hermes counter. All young, noisy and loaded.

It’s no surprise then that Selfridges, Manchester, is working with The Confucius Institute at the University of Manchester to create a programme whereby staff learn basic language elements (like how to greet people and ask if they need help – good luck firing an answer back when they tell you what they want in Mandarin) and also elements of Chinese culture so they get an understanding of ‘consumer behaviours’.

They said ‘..we noticed an increasing number of Chinese visitors to the store – many of whom are students based in and around Manchester or tourists. We want to ensure they have the bet possible shopping experience with us so are reaching out to them by speaking to them in their own language and respecting their cultural traditions around shopping’.

Please; you don’t need no consumer experts to tell you how to create the dream shop for the young, rich, mainland Chinese students. It’s like when someone asks me about what cultural traditions I have around food, and I say, Just eat it. And eat it good.

So here is my [slightly tongue in cheek] guide on How to Appeal To Chinese Customers – and I won’t even send you an invoice.

1. Labels. Chinese people like labels – and the labels have to be relatively visible, otherwise, what’s the point?

2. Bargains. Chinese people like bargains and offers – that’s just the way it is. If you can offer a discount or a freebie, even if it is the most rubbish gift of all time (‘A Chanel wallet for you to hold your paracetemol in’) they’ll like it.

3. Cute. Chinese people like kinda cute stuff – nothing too grown up and serious. If it has Hello Kitty on it…then I might be persuaded.

4. Queues. Chinese people like to barge in front of other customers, and other Chinese people too. Therefore you must have enough staff to deal with the strays who act like they MUST HAVE that Chanel handbag RIGHT NOW.

5. Cold. Chinese people don’t like being cold (hence the puffa jackets). Make sure it’s warm but not sweaty warm because we don’t like stripping off either.

6. Noise. Chinese people make a lot of noise, especially in groups. My family once made so much noise in Morrisons that when they finally shut up, I had Tinnitus. Therefore, sound proof the walls, or just try not too look bemused when it seems like EVERYONE IS SHOUTING because they’re not..which brings me to another point…

7. Space. Concessions that Chinese people like to shop in require a lot of space. For some reason Chinese people congregate in groups, whether it’s students who link arms and refuse to let go of each other, or innocents like me – one moment I’m stood there, suddenly 5 relatives have appeared and are taking up a lot of room. Give us room to manoeuvre.

8. Food. A supply of free food is always handy even if it’s just a snack or two. Don’t bother with alcohol – most Chinese can’t handle their booze so make it something easy to put into our mouths like, Sushi. Mmm Sushi. No, I haven’t thought about this many times…free sushi whilst shopping in Chanel…hmmmm….

9. Take Card. And Cash. Don’t look scared when a Chinese person pulls out a big wad of cash – it’s just what a lot of people do, and of course you will check the notes but don’t stand there like an arsey cow, lifting each sheet to the light, because it’s a bit rude, and we could be here for a long time.

10. Don’t be Snobby. Just because lots of Chinese people dress like something out of a manga cartoon or wear plastic flip flops with Harmani T-shirts, it doesn’t mean they don’t have the cash. Don’t be snooty. The young Chinese students will just be doubly annoying back, and the ones like me will write a very, very stern letter.

Finally, language intentions are all meant well, I am sure but keep is simple unless you can hold a conversation. When someone randomly starts trying to speak Chinese to me, I think they are either

a. taking the pi*s or
b. has mistaken me for their Berlitz tutor.

And THOSE, are my pearls of wisdom this Tuesday.

What do you think about Selfridges hiring in Chinese cultural experts to increase sales (basically)?

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  1. says

    LOLOLOLOL – you can say the same for the Japanese and Koreans, who also shop in packs. Ever see a Duty Free store in Hawaii? LV in Paris?! Same thing.

    I know someone who went into LV in Paris after a Japanese bus tour left – and they had picked the store clean. Always go early, before the Asian coach tours!

    At least they’re keeping the economy afloat!

  2. says

    Thanks for the read :) It’s great to hear how Chinese people shop, and very entertaining, too.

    I used to work at a gift shop at Gatwick and I could make your hair curl with tales of which (European) nationality shoplifted so much our shelves were left bare – and they were all old ladies, too!

  3. says

    I’ve literally just read this press release and was wondering what you would think about it! Personally, I think Selfridges should be more concerned about teaching their staff basic manners and courtesy wherever they’re from. As an English shopper, I still feel that Selfridges SAs don’t understand MY ‘buying habits and customs’. How many times have I walked in with money to burn and received no help at all? Actually just been ignored, blanked, given the evil eye? Most of the time, actually…

  4. says

    I’m chinese and I was born in Hong Kong, but raised in the States. I noticed that Chinese people travel in packs too, especially at Department stores or malls, which is definitely a good thing for the SAs. I also notice that customer service is very different in Hong Kong. In the US, SAs usually lure customers into buying something by complimenting them. In Hong Kong, SAs usually are very blunt and will tell the customers that they need this cream or that product in order to have great skin. Basically, SAs in Hong Kong will tell customers what they think is wrong with the customers’ face and will suggest products accordingly. Being raised in the US, I find that to be rude, but in Hong Kong, that type of customer service is just typical, but the Hong Kong SAs are not being malice when they say those things. That is just their way of selling products. I wonder if that type of customer service can be successful in the US.

  5. DC says

    Hi, love reading your blog so much! Yr cats r VVv cute. Just wondering hv u tried out burberry cosmetics yet?their lip sticks are so nice! I owned one lip cover no 3 . I hv been visiting their beauty conuter in hk n v interested to haul their base, foundation , powder n eye shadow. I will be looking forward to Yr reviews on their products :)

  6. says

    Their hearts are in the right place, but I think if the employees are nice and accommodating it doesn’t matter if they speak the same language as you, you’ll enjoy shopping there. You’d be surprised at how far you can get with just smiling and motioning with your hands! On the other hand, I have had experiences where employees don’t utter a word to me, but I know they don’t like me because I look foreign, and they assume I don’t speak English- they’ll ignore me even if they can see I need assistance, or they’ll try to act like they’re busy when obviously they’re not, etc. The thing is, even if I didn’t speak English I would still be perfectly capable of seeing and understanding their attitude! Customer service is important, but you don’t need to speak the same language to understand people.

  7. says

    I had to laugh at this one. I’m Chinese and Asian and living in Asia and even here we are seeing the proliferation of rich mainland Chinese shopping their hearts out! And yes, they have people here to specifically cater to them and speak the language. I’d hate to walk into Selfridges and have it appear to be mini China though (since I do look Chinese but do not speak the language) but that’s me.

      • Row says

        Mikeal – I do – you know that “Chinese” isn’t a language and there are many many dialects, don’t you? Or are you…ignorant?

  8. says

    LOL this post is hilarious! My boyfriend is Chinese and I’ve just sent him the link 😉

    It’s so spot on though. Chinese people love hanging out in groups. Here’s a fun trick if you’re ever in China though. Get a friend, and point at something in the sky. Start muttering to each other. Wait, and shortly about 10 people will come and see what you’re doing. Then leave. Hilarious.

  9. says

    when a barber gives a free haircut to a policeman, next day the policeman came back with a dozen of donuts for the barber
    when a barber gives a free haircut to a chinese man, next day a whole group of chinese men queue up outside the barber’s shop, waiting for a free haircut lol