Being the managing director of HERM Studio, a unisex British watch brand, Simon Ryley knows the value of timing. So despite the restrictions on international travel due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), he was present at the China International Fair for Trade and Investment (CIFIT) when it kicked off in Xiamen, Fujian Province in southeast China, on September 8, talking incessantly with curious visitors in his company’s booth to introduce the delicate models.
“Our primary goal in attending the fair is to showcase our products, make connections and develop our retail network in China,” Ryley told Beijing Review. It was HERM Studio’s debut at CIFIT and Ryley said he didn’t imagine he would make so many contacts in such a short time and was planning to turn up next year.
The watchmaker came to know of CIFIT thanks to the British Chamber of Commerce Guangdong (BritCham). At a promotional symposium of CIFIT in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province in south China, in July, BritCham was invited to take part in this year’s fair and HERM Studio, a member of the trade association, seized the chance to attend the four-day event. “We really appreciate CIFIT’s support in giving us the opportunity since our members are acquiring concrete benefits to increase their brand exposure and conduct business talks,” Vicky Luo, BritCham’s Office Manager in Shenzhen, said.
The fair was first held in 1997 to promote trade and investment between China and foreign countries. The annual event saw business as usual at the bustling Xiamen International Conference and Exhibition Center this year too. Only the sight of people wearing masks and following epidemic control measures at the entrance was a reminder of COVID-19. For the fair industry, despite the losses in all walks of life due to the pandemic, chances coexisted with difficulties.”The unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic to traditional fairs have created new opportunities for the acceleration of digitalization,” Wang Shouwen, Vice Minister of Commerce, said at the International Investment Forum held on September 8. The CIFIT Committee upgraded its online system and initiated a brand new version with the technical support of Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group.
According to a report released by the Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, a market research consultancy in Guangdong, in August, the digital economy accounted for 36.2 percent of China’s GDP in 2019, increasing from 14.2 percent in 2015. It contributed more than 50 percent of the economic growth on average during 2014-19.
Given the huge potential in the digital economy, the cooperation provided a great opportunity for Alibaba. “The online CIFIT marks a milestone event for Alibaba to explore with the committee and pioneer a sustainable digital CIFIT model,” Song Jie, partner and Vice President of Alibaba, said at the forum.