CHINA. GDFS, which describes itself as travel retail’s first membership-based global vertical e-commerce company, has opened a second physical ‘Experience Store’, this time in Ningbo in Zhejiang Province.

Ningbo is a major port and industrial hub in east China. The store is a follow-up to GDFS’s first store opened in Hangzhou in May. As reported, consumers pay an annual GDFS membership fee of US$118 to benefit from shopping opportunities through the GDFS website (www.gdfs.com) and the physical and online offers of its overseas partners. Already some 200,000 members have signed up, GDFS told The Moodie Davitt Report.

“A lot of brands are just selling through websites but that means Chinese consumers can’t try products such as perfume and skincare. People want to try items and then decide if they want to buy or not.” 

Like the Hangzhou offer, the Ningbo Experience store offers Chinese consumers the chance to test new products before ordering them online via the GDFS website and having them home-delivered.

Get ready for an Experience: The GDFS concept allows Chinese consumers to test products in a physical store before buying them online through the retailer’s e-commerce offer

“People have gone crazy for our second store,” says GDFS Vice President Diana Xi. “They are waiting in a line for two hours to enter.”

Grand Opening: The Ningbo shop is the second of over 30 planned Experience stores by the end of 2018

GDFS, which has twin bases in Beijing and Hong Kong, plans to establish partnerships with selected duty free partners to increase sales to Chinese travellers overseas.

“It’s the same with accessories such as necklaces. Consumers want to try them on because often the picture on a website is not accurate.”

GDFS Vice President Diana Xi told The Moodie Davitt Report: “We are going to open more stores at the end of this year, all in very good locations.” GDFS, whose warehouse is in Hong Kong, offers consumers a choice of fulfilment times – rush delivery or 5-7 days. The latter is cheaper and has proven hugely popular, Ms Xi said.

“People have gone crazy for our second store,” she said. “They are waiting in a line for two hours to enter [because of the heavy demand and constrained space, GDFS operates a strict queuing system -Ed].”

The GDFS store offers a fast-route to market for new accessory and skincare brands

“Our customer in Ningbo, on average, spends RMB3,000 (US$452 in our store and they’re crazy about high-end products,” she said. “High-end face cream or skin cream. People want sets – sometimes two or three sets.

“We are very happy with the situation right now so that’s why we plan to open six or seven stores at the end of this year. In the future our intention is to introduce more new brands to our store. When I was talking to new skincare brands, for example, during TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes, they were excited about our idea. Because otherwise they would need to wait around two years to enter the Chinese market due to the long testing process involved.

“We want to bring many new brands into these China market,” says Diana Xi. “We will encourage them to come here and together we can market to the Chinese customer.”

“A lot of brands are just selling through websites but that means Chinese consumers can’t try products such as perfume and skincare. People want to try items and then decide if they want to buy or not. It’s the same with accessories such as necklaces. Consumers want to try them on because often the picture on a website is not accurate.

“We want to bring many new brands into these China market. We will encourage them to come here and together we can market to the Chinese customer. The potential for high-end, foreign products – especially from Europe – is very high. So, we are very excited and we want to open another 30 stores next year. We have already signed contract with 15 shopping malls to open stores in 2018.”

PICTURE GALLERY OF GDFS’s FIRST STORE OPENING, IN HANGZHOU IN MAY 

Red letter day: GDFS President Barry Chen (right) and Vice President Diana Xi (second left) with Dermot Davitt and the company’s partner representatives in Japan and Spain respectively, Joe Alliance (left) and Rafael Cascales Sisniega (centre)

The opening in May drew big crowds to the central Hangzhou store, located in the prestigious GDA Plaza building

The Moodie Davitt Report President Dermot Davitt joined GDFS President Barry Chen (third from right), Vice President Diana Xi (fourth from left) and the senior team at the opening ceremony earlier this year

Celebrated make-up artist Laura Brinegar offered makeovers and styling tips on behalf of French skincare brand SLA, which made its Chinese debut in the Experience store

The GDFS store in Hangzhou welcomed members and non-members alike on opening day, with over 1,000 people signing up on day one, according to the e-commerce company

Technology in action: Consumers scan a code for their preferred product, then order online through the GDFS app