Banking on Lunar New Year Travelers, Harrods Launches WeChat Pay

    In the same month as they launched WeChat Pay, Harrods also introduced Alipay Instant VAT refunds to further win over Chinese travelers.
    Harrods Knightsbridge. Photo: Shutterstock
    Sam GaskinAuthor
      Published   in Finance

    Harrods has partnered with Tencent’s strategic partner My Money to roll out the WeChat digital payment system at Harrods Knightsbridge and its airport retail stores, just in time for the Lunar New Year holiday.

    WeChat pay is ubiquitous in China. It allows users to instantly send money to their contacts or, by scanning a QR code, to all kinds of retailers, from fruit vendors to restaurants to fashion retailers.

    Sunny Sun, the Managing Director of MyMoney, said “Harrods, one of the leading retailers and Chinese consumers’ favoured retail destination in the UK, will provide WeChat Pay to its 960 million active users all over the world.”

    The number of Chinese Harrods shoppers is of course, far fewer. According to the China Tourism Academy, 115,000 Chinese tourists visited the UK in the first half of 2017, but that was nevertheless an increase of almost 50 percent on the previous year.

    Harrods’ announcement comes as good news for Chinese travelers visiting the UK, who recently found out they were missing out on significant discounts due to discriminatory policies at Heathrow Airport’s duty-free stores.

    Michael Ward, Harrods’ Managing Director, said, “Customer experience is extremely important to Harrods and we are always looking at how we innovate in this space. WeChat Pay is integral to our Chinese customers so it is key for us to adapt to ensure Harrods remains their preferred global luxury destination.”

    Harrods has been strategic in its efforts to reach Chinese shoppers. They’ve recruited more than 200 Mandarin-speaking staff, and even redesigned their floor plan — adding a new fine watch room and changes to the jewelry department — with Chinese shoppers in mind. They were also quick to adopt other Chinese payment methods, accepting cards from China Union Pay in 2010 and payments using Alibaba’s Alipay in 2016.

    Harrods evidently has no horse in the race between Unionpay, WeChat Pay and Alipay. In the same month they launched WeChat Pay, they’ve also introduced Alipay Instant VAT refunds, hoping to offer a smoother tax-free shopping experience.

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