Oroton seeks Chinese distribution partner

OrotonshuttersnightPittStMallAustralian accessories retailer Oroton is on the lookout for a distribution partner in China to roll out up to 30 stores across the country over the next three to five years.

Chief executive Mark Newman told the Nine Network’s Financial Review Sunday program it might take up to 18 months to find the right partner but after that, expansion could happen fast.

Oroton is part of a wave of Australian companies looking to tap into China’s rising middle class, which Trade Minister Andrew Robb said this week was expected to number 1 billion people by 2030.

Mr Robb and Prime Minister Tony Abbott hosted a delegation of more than 600 business people in China this week to try to boost trade and investment between the two countries.

Oroton opened its first store in Shanghai last October, which Mr Newman said was “a window to the brand in China”.

“We’re not looking to roll out a whole lot of our own operated stores in China, we’re really looking for a franchise partner or a series of partners,” he said.

“Once we do that and depending on how quickly we find those relationships, the rollout could be quite quick after that. It’s a vast country so there’s an opportunity, depending on the availability of good real estate, to have 20 to 30 stores over the next three to five years.”

Mr Newman said Oroton had already built up a good Chinese customer base at its Australian stores. The company’s China move is part of a broader Asian expansion, which has entailed the opening of new stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong over the past three years.

Private online eyewear retailer SmartBuyGlasses is also betting on rapid growth in China.

The Shanghai-based company run by three Australians expects China will be its biggest market in the next five to 10 years.

Wagas Group is also starting an expansion into greater China after setting up more than 40 cafes and restaurants in Shanghai and Beijing over the past 15 years. The group, which is run by Australian businesswoman Jackie Yun and her Danish business partner, John Christensen, employs 950 people and plans to open 20 new stores this year.

Source: Financial Review

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