A Cumbrian retailer is thinking carefully about entering the Chinese market after working with students to research trading in the country.

Two Chinese Masters students from Lancaster University have been working with Lakeland Leather as part of their marketing dissertation project.

In the second of two studies, students Brittany Zhu and Skyler Liu, who are both studying at Lancaster University Management School investigated the possibility of the company entering the Chinese market.

This involved delivering questionnaires via social media platform WeChat to participants in China.

Among their findings was the fact that Chinese customers have a lack of brand loyalty and are willing to switch.

In addition, they found people favoured brands with a meaningful brand story, with some preferring those with British heritage.

The research also found although China is a price led market, respondents were willing to spend more on real leather products and associated them with high social status.

Overall, respondents were positive about leather goods and appreciated good quality and British design.

On the other hand, counterfeit items and copying were highlighted as an issue by the students.

Unbranded, lower quality leather products creating a saturated market and distorting the pricing for higher quality items was also identified as an issue.

The students recommended the best method to enter the Chinese market is via concessions.

Research showed concessions are most appropriate for smaller, specialist retailers like Lakeland Leather without the risk of making a large financial and operational commitment.

Martin Foster, Lakeland Leather managing director, said: “The students’ findings are extremely helpful in revisiting the prospect of entering the Chinese market for us.

"The insight we have gained from this research project is particularly valuable and unique, and will help us make a well informed decision on entering international markets.”