When you think of global brands on Alibaba’s Tmall shopping platform, names like Adidas, Lancome or Uniqlo might spring to mind. You probably wouldn’t propose the British Museum as a contender. But that would be a misjudgement. Since it launched its store on Tmall at the beginning of July, the museum has been a surprising hit. Website Huxiu even described it as the “best selling Tmall store” noting that the museum’s goods sold out within a month due to the scale of demand. The UK’s Daily Telegraph concurred, noting that it had proved a “smash hit on Tmall”. So what were the Chinese so avidly buying? At launch the museum offered 20 items from teacups featuring Egyptian princesses to iPhone cases embossed with images of pharaohs. Bags and moon-shaped fans were also available for prices that ranged from as low as Rmb6 for stationery to Rmb169 ($24.54) for umbrellas. By late July the museum had also gained an impressive 150,000 followers for its e-commerce site.
A message on the site now explains that the museum is replenishing its stock, with its merchandising boss Craig Bendle telling the Telegraph: “It’s an exciting prospect for the British Museum to be working with a company of Alibaba’s stature as part of the museum’s product licencing campaign.”
For Britain, maybe this is a positive signal. After all, the nation’s Brexiteers have claimed that the country can sell more to the Chinese as it tries to diversify away from the EU market. Perhaps one of the country’s best-loved tourist attractions can lead the effort?