Australian retailers reach out to Chinese shoppers
By Madeleine Coorey AFPSYDNEY -- Be polite but not too familiar, display lucky symbols and take things slowly — unusual advice for the frantic world of retail but Australian stores hope it will help lure cashed-up Chinese tourists.
February 9, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
As Sydney gears up to host one of the world's biggest Chinese New Year celebrations, officials are working to help struggling retailers use the key tourism event to set their cash registers ringing.
Consumer confidence has stalled in Australia, with households cautious about spending given the uncertain global economy, while an explosion in online shopping has hurt bricks-and-mortar stores.
In an effort to offset the impact, Sydney has established practical workshops to help businesses attract Chinese clients with advice ranging from employing Mandarin-speaking staff to using feng shui to attract shoppers.
“The numbers of Chinese tourists from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China are increasing exponentially,” explained Sydney councilor Jenny Green at a recent “ChinaConnect” workshop designed specifically for retailers.
“So it's really important that our businesses here in Sydney cater to the needs of those tourists.”
She said the workshops, where dozens of tourism operators, business owners and hospitality specialists gather to learn more about what Chinese tourists might want, are about giving retailers the skills to cater to their needs.
They cover cultural awareness — such as Chinese sensitivities, customs and traditions; how to communicate more effectively with Chinese shoppers and how to tailor products and services to meet the needs of visitors.
Among the advice to shop assistants is to respect the elders and not deal exclusively with the person who speaks the best English, given that they may not be the one with the most buying power.
Experts also recommend translating signs, brochures and business cards, acknowledging Chinese New Year and other holidays and using the power of auspicious symbols, feng shui and gifts.
Green said there are signs that some retailers get the message, but there is also an awareness that more could be done to attract Asian visitors.
“I think, no doubt, that the retailers and the business people here would be very aware that that's a growing market, and they would be keen to tap into that,” she said.