New Look business development director Steve Challes has emphasised the importance of a bricks-and-mortar presence to crack the Chinese market.

The fashion retailer has around 85 stores in the country and also sells goods via partnerships with Alibaba’s Tmall platform and

But Challes believes shops have been crucial in helping New Look to stand out and give it a foothold in the market.

Speaking as part of a panel at the Retail Week International Expansion conference today, Challes said: “I think that our challenge, everybody’s challenge, is establishing the brand because Tmall is a crowded platform.

“Stores are very important and that’s the footfall driver for us. They build the brand and some of the early stores were very much a marketing investment.

“We paid good, decent rents because we wanted to get some good presence.”

Working in tandem

Challes said its online operations in China were also “important”, but said the two channels have to work in tandem to achieve success.

He added: “We’ve got 100 stores. Ecommerce sales for us in China through Tmall and now are probably around about 25% of our total at the moment – and growing.

“We do see the two as being complimentary. You’ve got to work at the two together, but you’ve got to stand out.”

However, despite New Look’s sales continuing to grow online, Challes said the retailer “won’t rush” to launch a transactional website of its own.

Instead it is focusing on expanding its physical footprint and plans to launch standalone menswear stores in China in the coming months.