Because China

Even small changes in China have global effects.

From a distance, China looks like a gold mine to international fashion companies. Last year, China became the biggest retail and fashion market in the world, according to estimates, and its growth isn’t even close to finished.

But connecting with Chinese shoppers often requires a very different set of tools than US and European companies use at home. At this week’s big annual conference held in New York by the National Retail Federation—a trade group representing American retailers—the fast-growing US shoe maker Allbirds and Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba were on hand to talk about the challenges Western brands face entering China, as well as how Allbirds is meeting them.

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Communicating with shoppers in China is different than elsewhere. “The media market in general in China is much more fragmented than it is in most of the rest of the world,” said Erick Haskell, president of Allbird’s international business. Much of it is done through digital platforms that may not even exist outside China, such as Weibo, WeChat, and Xiaohongshu. Allbirds had to learn what worked on each of them.