UK must do more to welcome Chinese: Fashion chief

Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:40pm EST
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By Li-mei Hoang and Ethan Bilby

LONDON (Reuters) - Yin Qi Du adjusts her cream Gucci bag as she waits for the Selfridge's assistant to bring out another designer handbag for her perusal.

She inspects it carefully, admiring the leather, the workmanship and discreet logo before shaking her head. It's not quite the color she was looking for.

Like many young Chinese shopping on the British high street, Du arrived in London to study. But unlike your average student, she's not pinching pennies--she's here to spend, and spend big.

British Fashion Council Chairman Harold Tillman said on Friday that Britain should be doing more to encourage Chinese shoppers like Du to visit, and more importantly shop in, the capital.

"We're going to cut through the difficulties the Chinese are undertaking to obtain a visa to this country," Tillman told Reuters at the kickoff to London Fashion Week.

He has been asked to lead a committee that is tasked with finding a solution to the delays in visa applications for Chinese visitors to Britain, where only one visa is granted for every nine that the French government issues.

"There is a percentage, multi-billion pounds worth of more shopping we can create here," he said. "It's something I'm really keen to do."

As Europe tightens its purse strings in response to a euro zone debt crisis, Chinese consumers are inadvertently stepping in to help buoy the European economy.   Continued...