The Chinese are here: Xiaomi to bring phones to the UK next month

Next stop, formaldehyde-free mattresses?

Xiaomi Underpants
Xiaomi underpants

Xiaomi will officially launch in the UK with its first physical store in November – and retail support from Hutchison's Three UK.

Xiaomi's Mi 5

Xiaomi the way: Hyped Chinese giant begins its battle for Britain

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In May, Hutch vowed to wheel in its formidable retail clout to the support of the unconventional Chinese giant. This includes selling Xiaomi consumer goods in Three-branded stores as well as the Superdrug chain. The network operator today promised that it would range and support the Xiaomi devices, giving them a high street presence. The Mi Store will be in London's Westfield mega-mall in White City.

In China, Xiaomi resembles an online version of an old-fashioned department store like Debenhams, selling a wide range of household goods – such as "formaldehyde-free" mattresses. Or underpants. It takes equity in over 100 companies to help bring them to market. But the bulk of its revenue still comes from low-margin smartphones. It's committed to not exceeding 5 per cent profit margin – making the rest from services. This peculiar combination has been successful, however, in emerging markets.

Xiaomi Mi Mattress

A Xiaomi mattress

The firm raised $4.72bn in a private equity offering in June – about half of what it wanted to raise this year.

Chinese brands are notorious for their eccentric UIs, but Xiaomi has a decent story here. It began its journey as an electronic manufacturer by creating a ROM for Android phones, and today its Mi UX is the best regarded among the mass-market Chinese phone brands. But it's still a new name for consumers to get accustomed to – and trust.

Last week OnePlus – described by CCS Insight's Ben Wood as the "the pop brand of the BKK empire" – snagged EE and Vodafone alongside O2 for its OnePlus 6T, to be unveiled later today. John Lewis will also stock the new flagship.

The Chinese have been "coming" for a long time, posing an increasing threat to established OEMs like Samsung and Sony. With so much channel support, it's safe to say they're finally "here". ®




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