Non-food retailers in mature markets have recently pinned their hopes for future growth on three things: factory outlet locations, e-commerce and expansion into emerging markets.  The trade press has been fueled for the past couple of years by reports of high-profile retailers expanding abroad.  While the common assumption has been that the retailer tide will flow in one direction - from the US and Europe outward - a key trend on the radar is the exact reverse of this.  Retailers are going to be heading in the opposite direction and will exert a material influence on fashion and shopping in mature markets.

Shanghai Tang was one of the notable early movers but others are looking to get a foothold in the West as well.  Examples are China's Li-Ning sports apparel brand, which has just kicked off its US e-commerce site, and India's Malabar Gold & Diamonds that is targeting a major international rollout from its current regional store base of 64 units.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Watch for a steady stream of fashion, health & beauty brands influenced by Eastern philosophies, fabrics and ingredients to come knocking on the door in mature markets over the next few years.

Are there positive implications for shopping centers and other retail distribution channels in places like North America and Australia?  The answer is a qualified "yes."  There will be a pool of new tenants for shopping centers and fresh brands for department stores and other wholesale channels.  However, with regard to the benefits to shopping centers, much depends on whether incoming brands take the flagship/e-commerce road or decide to establish full-blown store networks.

Either way, after the mess that some Western architects, developers and retailers have made in emerging markets they came to conquer, it's refreshing to see imperialism in the retail industry is now set to work both ways.


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