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Middle Huaihai Rd shows city’s economic vibrancy and resilience
By:Wu Qiong  |  From:english.eastday.com  |  2020-05-27 09:49

As the city’s prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic becomes normalised, the economy is recovering. With a history of 120 years, Middle Huaihai Rd epitomes Shanghai’s economic development. It is also one of the first commercial blocks to recover from the impact of the epidemic.

Step into Victoria’s Secret and be dazzled by the colorful world of stylish and unique lingerie, beauty products, accessories and others. Several young female shoppers are scattered around the first floor, casually picking out products. Just a few blocks away at 775 Middle Huaihai Road, “niko and...” opened all the windows facing the street, and young customers filled the window seats, casually chatting or working on their laptops. Peer into the window, and you’ll discover that the 1st-floor cafe bar is equally filled with customers. It's a common sight for a workday afternoon on Middle Huaihai Road.

Where Victoria’s Secret got started in China

Victoria’s Secret took root in China by opening its first flagship store on Middle Huaihai Road. At Lippo Plaza on Middle Huaihai Road, no other store is as eye-catching as Victoria’s Secret. The three-story black and pink boutique is visible even from a distance.

In February 2017, China’s first and the world’s third Victoria’s Secret Full Collection Flagship Store opened at Lippo Plaza. On the day of the opening, four Victoria’s Secret Angels descended into Shanghai, drawing a record-sized crowd.

Victoria’s Secret is an iconic presence on the road. It not only draws people’s attention to the road’s surrounding area, but also speeds up the development of businesses on the road.

After taking the initial step of establishing a location on Middle Huaihai Road, Victoria’s Secret has swiftly expanded its footprint in the Chinese market: As of May 2020, Victoria’s Secret has opened 65 FA stores, TR stores, and BA stores in 19 cities, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou and Hong Kong. Victoria’s Secret has also expanded its online presence launching online stores on Tmall and JD, and established an official Chinese website as well.

“Middle Huaihai Road is more than just a road. It has a long history of cultural heritage and profound sentiments, making it a road full of warmth, emotions and memories. Although Victoria’s Secret is an American brand, its decision to open its first store on Huaihai Road carries significant meaning,” said Eileen Xu, assistant vice president of L Brands Greater China, the group that Victoria’s Secret belongs to.

Victoria’s Secret has very clear “American DNA”, but it has made constant innovations to integrate into the Chinese market. It signed two Chinese brand ambassadors outside the US for the first time in 2018, introducing Chinese elements into the brand; for the 2019 and 2020 Chinese New Year, every Victoria’s Secret FA store in China underwent a costume change from the traditional Victoria’s Secret pink to the joyous “Chinese red”. The Shanghai flagship store at Lippo Plaza was especially eye-catching, with a fiery red that lit up Middle Huaihai Road. The brand has also launched their “This Is Sexy” campaign recently, with the official announcement of the brand spokespersons Yang Mi and Zhou Dongyu.

However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic has forced Victoria’s Secret to slow down. At the peak of the epidemic, two-thirds of its stores in China were forced to close temporarily.

Even the Shanghai flagship store closed for a week. But as one of the most iconic features of Middle Huaihai Road, it was also one of the first on the street to reopen. People began to return to the store, with a constant flow of customers even on weekday afternoons and more customers carrying shopping bags.

During the epidemic, Victoria’s Secret made adjustments based on changes in consumer habits, according to Eileen Xu. On one hand, product adjustments were made and a temporary online promotion window was launched, while on the other, brick-and-mortar stores strengthened epidemic prevention measures so that customers feel safe walking in and shopping. Since the end of February, Victoria’s Secret has also overcome challenges faced by the global supply chain, launching a new collection and new events to highlight the brand’s support for the full reopening of the Chinese market and confidence that the economy will recover.

Limited edition giftboxes tailored to the Chinese market were placed in prominent areas throughout the store, and a few women stopped to browse through the products. From the end of May to early June, to build momentum for Shanghai’s “Double 5 Shopping Festival”, Victoria’s Secret will also launch a nationwide SAS event both online and offline.

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the construction of Middle Huaihai Road. As a store that has called the road its home for three years, Victoria’s Secret holds the expectations for this street’s future. Eileen Xu said she hopes to bring more people to the area, making the place even more bustling and vibrant. A dialog between the traditional and contemporary, and a collision of the classic and fashionable, Middle Huaihai Road is, without a doubt, a perfect focal point.

“niko and ...” Shanghai under high expectation

Japanese lifestyle and retail brand “niko and ...” opened a flagship store in Shanghai last year. People lined up in front of the store almost every day in the first month of its opening. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the store was quiet for some time, but with the recovery of the city’s businesses, the day-to-day store traffic has been restored to 80% of what it was in the past.

(Photo/Hai Sha'er)

During the Labor Day holiday, people waited in queues again in front of the store.

Around 1,300 “niko and ...” stores in Japan, South Korea and other locations have been shut down due to the pandemic, but the Shanghai flagship store is still open, with strong recovery resilience. The entire group, Adastria Co., Ltd., is full of expectation for the sales performance of the Shanghai store.

“niko and ...” chose Middle Huaihai Road for its business atmosphere and vibrancy.

The speed of renewal on the road is amazing, said Mr. Kitamura from Adastria. He comes to Shanghai every few months, and each time he finds some new stores on the road. “In the current commercial environment, only by swift renewal and adjustment can commercial blocks stay vibrant,” he said.

Having lived in Shanghai for five years, Mr. Ozawa, who is responsible for the Business Department of “niko and ...” Shanghai, has deep feelings for Middle Huaihai Road. For him, the road is becoming Omotesando in the commercial district of Tokyo, Japan. “It has accumulated many well-known brands and designer brands, very fashionable. The placement of clothes in the windows is creative. It is where young people and fashionistas gather.”

Story/Jiefang Daily

Translator/Wu Qiong