Selling to China? Maggie Zhou Says Consumers Want Activewear & Organic Goods

April Davis By April Davis | 05 Mar 2019

In an exclusive report for Power Retail, Maggie Zhou, the managing director of Alibaba Group (Australia and New Zealand) reveals what Chinese consumers really want from Australian retailers.

Since Alibaba’s 11:11 Global Shopping Festival in November last year, Zhou says there has been increasing demand in China for quality Australian products.

“We are expecting local products and brands to continue to perform well with certain product categories in particular on the rise,” she tells Power Retail.

According to Zhou, there are four categories that are in high-demand. These include dog food, Australian activewear brands, swimwear brands and organic, high-quality beauty products.

Over the past few months, Alibaba has reportedly seen an increase in interest surrounding Australian dog food brands. The business equates this to changing Chinese family structures where more millennials and empty nesters are turning to furry four-legged companions for company. On Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, Zhou says popular dog food brands include Real Pet Food and Blackhawk, as consumers seek out natural pet food alternatives including grain free food and kangaroo meat. Vegetarian options are also popular choices among discerning shoppers.

Maggie Zhou discusses the cross-border trade opportunity between Australia and China. Source: supplied.

Australian activewear brands such as Lorna Jane and YPL Australia have also surged in popularity in the region, with both brands reporting strong sales on Tmall’s global marketplace. Lorna Clarkson, the founder of Lorna Jane says the fashion-forward nature of Aussie activewear brands is what’s drawing in Chinese shoppers.

“Australia is recognised globally as being at the forefront of all things health and fitness – so it makes sense that these markets look to us for the best in activewear. Australia is also more fashion-forward when it comes to activewear which is also a huge drawcard for Chinese consumers,” Clarkson says.

Activewear isn’t the only apparel category leaving a mark, as swimwear brands are also highly searched for and purchased in the Chinese market. Australian brand, Seafolly is an example of this. Interestingly, Alibaba says that local shoppers are purchasing swimwear to wear as regular clothing because they love the apparel, but don’t have the strong beach culture that Australia has.

The other most popular category for the online marketplace is organic and high-quality beauty products. In 2018, Australian model and influencer, Miranda Kerr was the headline act at the 11:11 shopping festival’s gala event. During this time, her beauty brand, Kora Organics reportedly sold like hot cakes, with millions of Chinese consumers purchasing one or more product from her range.

In a recent interview with Power Retail, Zhou also highlighted Australian health products and wine as strong sellers in the Chinese space.

“Australian brands have a natural advantage in China as their high-quality products are well perceived and trusted by Chinese consumers. There is currently a major market for companies selling health products to China due to Australia’s ‘clean and green’ image. Other Australian industries also currently selling well in China include food, wine and beauty,” she said.

Given the overwhelming popularity of Australian brands in China, Zhou believes cross-border trade into China is a natural progression for Aussie retailers that are looking to expand beyond their local operations.

“Consumers shop online for a range of products from all over the globe. By setting up a successful cross-border strategy, companies can not only shop items that are often too expensive, but they can also source products not yet available in their country,” she says.

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