IN RETAIL parlance it's called "enticing the dragon". And for one of Ireland's luxury retailers, capturing a slice of the lucrative Chinese tourist market is very enticing indeed.
With an estimated 70 million Chinese tourists expected to take foreign holidays in 2013 – including two million that Tourism Ireland hopes to woo – Brown Thomas is the first major retailer in Ireland to launch a marketing "offensive" at the burgeoning Chinese middle-class.
With 24 Chinese tour operators now offering packages to Ireland to coincide with tours to the UK, the first wave of tourists is expected in April continuing through to September.
And the retailer will be ready to roll out the red carpet to greet them with a warm "huan ying" (welcome). It has already hired 20 native Mandarin speakers from Ireland's Chinese community for its flagship store on Grafton Street in Dublin, with additional staff at its stores in Galway, Cork and Limerick. Other initiatives will include Chinese signage in the shop, translating in-store restaurant menus into Mandarin and tweaking its cash points to accept China Union pay cards.
All staff are being briefed on Chinese culture and customs – such as their tendency to avoid eye contact as well as a cultural reticence to say "no" directly – in order to make Chinese visitors more comfortable and, consequently, willing to spend. Chinese shoppers are particularly fond of global fashion labels such as Miu Miu, Gucci and Prada.
And because the Chinese tend to ask a lot of questions about products before buying them, staff will be put through their paces in their knowledge, said Saquib Jan, Brown Thomas's special projects manager.
"It's the big elephant in the room," he said.
"The Chinese consumer is having a huge impact and it's a fact no one can afford to ignore," he said.
Moreover, Chinese tourists will typically dedicate an average of two days during their visit to shopping, he added. "Shopping is a very important part of their itinerary and we're actively trying to get our store China-ready," he said
The retailer is understood to be the first of its kind in Ireland to "entice the dragon", however, its canny retail counterparts in London's Oxford Street and Knightsbridge already have similar initiatives in place.