Retail continues to be a hot sector in China – while national sales figures can be misleading (as we discussed in our October issue) – that doesn’t change the fact that Chinese consumers have continued to shop. They’re not all buying the same things, of course – anyone who keeps track of labels on the streets will know that sportswear brands like Kappa, formerly common in Beijing and Shanghai, are gradually being relegated to second-, third- and even lower-tier cities.
Consumer research firm Access Asia talked about this trend in its most recent weekly email, noting that "smart casual" is now the preferred look for the urban middle class (think Zara, H&M and the like). Now, thanks to Shanghaiist, we hear news that The Gap, preferred clothier of North American youth in the mid-90s (I’ll admit I was unaware of Gap’s rising fortunes as a purveyor or smart-casual wear), is on its way to China. No information yet on where it will choose to introduce its first direct foray into a foreign market in more than 10 years. But given the current consumer mood, its timing sounds fortuitous.