Bottom Line: Britain is proving ready for Asia’s century

Marc Sidwell
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IT’S a welcome reminder of Britain’s world-class commercial creativity. Two firms whose brands we might think of only as local icons, House of Fraser and Cath Kidston, are attracting fierce interest from Asian buyers. In the case of House of Fraser, the deal is done, China’s San Power now has an 89 per cent stake and plans are already afoot to roll its stores out in China.

Beyond the UK and Ireland, House of Fraser has one store at present: in Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Center mall. The new deal sensibly recognises that its retail offering has far wider potential than just as a local brand.

For Cath Kidston, that’s long been clear. There are other names still in contention, so the brand’s floral chic may not end up being bought by Japan’s Uniqlo, but there’s no doubt the match would make sense.

Cath Kidston’s first non-UK branch opened eight years ago – in Tokyo. Today its goods are available in 33 Japanese shops, plus five outlet stores – accounting for about a third of its non-UK stores and concessions, which in total outnumber those in the UK nearly two to one.

That’s as it should be. Britain is an island with an imagination larger than its modest borders. If we are to thrive in the coming Asian century, we must celebrate when our homegrown business models prove popular on the Pacific Rim.

According to EY, Asia’s middle class is 525m strong: larger than the EU population. In 20 years, 3bn more people will join the middle class, mainly in Asia. As it happens, Britain has a great contribution to make.

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