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Ralph Qiu, Caracter Company China resultant

“Caracter Company offers Chinese retail a long-term cure”

I talked to our colleague Ralph Qiu using WeChat (Weixin), the Chinese version of WhatsApp.

Nice to know: WeChat is the Chinese social messenger platform basically combining Facebook and WhatsApp, including tools not only for ordering, paying and money saving, but also gaming, video and phone.

Hi Ralph, when did you join Caracter China?

“I started working with Caracter Company in 2014 and helped launch Caracter Company China. We currently are four people in our Shanghai office. Before I joined Caracter, I worked for a British retail research company called Planet Research.”

How would you describe the Chinese retail market?

“The Chinese market as a whole is booming as everyone knows. And in retail lots of design ideas are copied from the USA and Europe, but using Category Management knowledge is totally new. I mean, it’s not that difficult to store all the products in your shop, but assortment choices and presentation are often lacking totally. Caracter is offering that specific retail expertise.”

Can you give an example of how you helped Chinese retailers change their attitude?

“A good example of this is Miracle World Shanghai. They are Disney products licensee and asked us to help operate a new retail outlet in a hypermarket environment, which was new to them. After a sound field shopper research and thorough data analysis, we designed a totally new plan, including floor designs and suggested assortment changes.”

Is the market ready for the next step in retail marketing?

“Most of the retail outlets are just trying to survive the short term. Local Chinese consultancy firms are aiming for that and helping to provide short term profits using promotions only. The heavy competition from e-commerce is eating away profits so they are tempted to follow these consults. We as Caracter China on the other end are pushing for the long term strategy. Not the most easy route, but this is where our added value lies.”

What is your strategy to cut through short current term attitudes?

“Well, we are getting more and more speaking opportunities. As you know, we were invited by the Chinese PLMA, called PLSC, to partner in launching the first Chinese Challenge Awards in November. Suzette offered her expertise in organizing this event and how to appoint a jury. This was big news for Chinese retail and we got lots of press attention during our press conference. This is where it shows we have something different to bring to the table. We sure are getting noticed.”

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