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China's urban expansion favours online shopping

09 March 2011 - 09:51 by Mike Price

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The rapid expansion of China's major cities like Shanghai is seeing more and more people turn to e-commerce firms, as opposed to traditional bricks and mortar retailers, as those who operate on the high street simply cannot keep pace with the growth.

A report from the BBC has examined the way in which many families who move into the recently constructed neighbourhoods, which are springing up around the largest urban areas, are forced to use safe shopping online to buy virtually everything, because there are no big name stores available to them in their developing communities.

Observers have pointed out that while retail in China is quickly beginning to mirror the equivalent in Western nations, both retailers and consumers are unprepared to take advantage of the changes to the infrastructure.

Shopping malls are common in Chinese cities, but while people use them to socialise and relax, there is apparently a distinct lack of actual business passing through the stores.

Instead people are using safe shopping online in the suburbs to buy groceries, electronics, toys and many other household items which might be supplied by bricks and mortar stores, were there any available to locals.

The superior experience of online shopping for Chinese consumers is compounded by the fact that many people employed in high street stores lack the experience or knowledge to properly supply them with information about a product before they make a purchase.

This is leading to many doing their research on the internet and subsequently heading to the high street, a kind of hybrid approach to shopping which is already in full force here in the UK.

Social networking and word of mouth are also catching on in a big way, allowing Chinese consumers to bypass traditional portals for advice and get a consensus on a product from their friends, which is also having an impact in the UK.