The eyes of the financial world have been on China this week as the closed-door meeting held by its top leaders, a gathering also known as the Third Plenum, debated the future of the country’s economic progress.

The eyes of the financial world have been on China this week as the closed-door meeting held by its top leaders, a gathering also known as the Third Plenum, debated the future of the country’s economic progress.

The end of the four-day conclave was marked by a pledge to let markets play a “decisive” role in the economy, a significant change in rhetoric from China’s elite. And a target date of 2020 has been set to deliver “decisive results”.

Details are in short supply and interpreting exactly what this will mean for British retailers is fraught with difficulty - this is China after all.

But there seems to be broad agreement that the administration will seek to drive economic reform that will create greater room for private enterprise as well as establishing an economy based far more on consumption.

China remains a retail market where the potential gains are matched only by the challenges of reaping those rewards. And for every exciting new venture - and Asos’ launch of a localised website this week is a timely reminder British retailers don’t lack for ambition in this giant market - there have been high-profile challenges this year, evidenced by Tesco’s restructuring in the country.

The prospect, therefore, that central reforms might unlock greater and freer access to China’s vast consumer base is tantalising - an opportunity underscored by this week’s extraordinary retail activity around Singles’ Day, which generated $5.75bn (£3.61bn) in sales for the country’s largest ecommerce business, Alibaba, alone.

But the implications for retailers of Beijing’s consumer-focused reforms are far greater than that. And its rapacious appetite for goods will also have profound effects on global supply chains as the country increasingly sucks up the building blocks of retail, from steel to build stores to the food, cotton and materials that fill the shelves. Recent statistics that showed China almost doubled its imports of grain in 2013 are just the tip of the iceberg.

The competition to win spend among China’s growing consumer base may attract the headlines, but the real cost of those changes will be the pressure on sourcing strategies. The most far-sighted retail leaders are already considering how they must protect those supplies in the shadow of this expanding giant.