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UK retailers catering for homesick Chinese

By WANG MINGJIE | China Daily UK | Updated: 2016-10-27 17:29

UK retailers catering for homesick Chinese

Oriental food displayed on the shelves of a local supermarket in London. [Photo by Wang Mingjie/China Daily]

With a growing number of Chinese people working and studying in Britain, local supermarkets and neighborhood stores have responded by stocking an increasingly large range of flavors from home.

The trend toward retailers routinely stocking oriental food is evident in London's Canary Wharf, part of the capital's financial district where many international businesses are based. The recently-built residential developments in the area have attracted many Chinese buyers.

Seizing on the opportunity presented by a growing Chinese customer base, the local branch of Tesco now offers a dedicated oriental food section.

The store's workers said the decision to provide authentic Asian ingredients at the outlet was taken more than two years ago, after market research showed there was a major demand for the products in the area.

Christof Backhaus, professor and chair of marketing at Aston Business School, said the new retail focus on oriental food was common sense.

"In the quest for new measures to optimally address market needs, such adaptations in assortment are an innovative, and at the same time logical, step taken by retailers," he said.

Chinese ingredients, such as Shaohsing rice wine, can now be seen far beyond the specialist Chinese stores they were once exclusively found within.

Supermarket staff in Canary Wharf said oriental food was the top-seller among other international food, which include Caribbean, Indian and Polish products.

"This can certainly be attributed to the rising Chinese population working and living in the area," said one local employee.

Other businesses capitalizing on the growing number of Chinese in the UK include an independent Chinese store, ChinaArk Supermarket, which is near Queen Mary University of London.

Zhou Fangzhou, who has run the store for more than eight years, said his business boomed in recent years, thanks to the influx of Chinese people into the area, most of them students.

China has 89,540 students in the UK, the largest number of foreign students from any one country, according to the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Zhou said the increase in student numbers does not necessarily guarantee higher sales because he has seen rivals go out of business in the area.

"You need to provide what the market wants," he said.

The store offers aisles of staple cooking ingredients, including dozens of noodle options, a variety of oriental sauces, jumbo bags of sticky rice, fresh tofu, and easy-to-cook hot-pot ingredients, such as fi sh balls, frozen beef slices, and beancurd, which are all extremely popular among students.

"Most students who shopped here told me they miss home and Chinese food when studying here, and being able to purchase authentic Chinese food on their doorstep is a great comfort," Zhou added.

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