Waitrose enters China and predicts it will become top international market by 2021

Waitrose has begun exporting to China for the first time, after reaching an agreement to sell its own label products through leading online store Tmall.

Photo by David Howard
Photo by David Howard

As of 18 April, the retailer is offering an initial 30 products from ranges such as Waitrose Duchy Organic and Waitrose Baby, exclusively through the Royal Mail store on Tmall Global, an online marketplace operated by the online giant Alibaba Group.

These products will be joined later in the year by Essential Waitrose and the recently announced Waitrose 1 range.

We hope that many other brands will follow given the potential that China offers to their business and the demand that exists for British products

It is the first time Waitrose has exported to a country via a website platform only. But despite the absence of a bricks and mortar operation in China, the retailer predicted it would become its biggest international market within five years.

Waitrose set up the deal through Chinese e-commerce specialist Avenue51, which runs the Royal Mail store on Tmall Global.

The Royal Mail store specialises in championing British brands, which enjoy prestige among Chinese consumers.

"The potential for Waitrose in China is huge," said its commercial director Mark Williamson. "Although it's a relatively modest start it's our ambition to see it become our biggest international business in the next three to five years."

Amee Chande, managing director, UK/Ireland & Nordics at Alibaba Group, said Waitrose was well placed to reach Chinese consumers who "seek out high quality British brands".

"Waitrose joins a number of leading British brands already available through the Royal Mail Store and we hope that many others will follow given the potential that China offers to their business and the demand that exists for British products," she said.