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Drew Campbell is an Australian national. He is the Founder & CEO of WHS – which is the first independent retail chain of health food stores in Mainland China. His company is the first resident of a new workspace in Shanghai called the Node, and by whose management we were invited. He talks openly and frankly lets us know what it is like to be an entrepreneur in China, about the need to take on a much broader range of responsibilities and skills that are required to compete in, overcome and survive the day-to-day issues in the Chinese health, wellness and fitness industry that has seen many others fail.
Originally from Melbourne, in 2002, Drew started work in the health and fitness industry in Australia and in 2005 he moved to China. Drew and his team are proud to be the first to bring the real “Western” health food store concept to China. It is possibly one of the most challenging business areas to survive with product quality, the navigation of bureaucracy, and rule breaking competition creating extra hurdles that entrepreneurs must get over. However, Drew has with his entrepreneurial never give in fighting spirit has learned many aspects of business and sticks rigidly to doing business correctly in Asia.
Drew discusses scope of his retail business, which is much broader than his native Australia. His reasons for choosing the Node, a new 2,000 sq. meter workspace in Shanghai, as his company’s base and why he rejected alternatives.
The humble origin of his business in his Beijing apartment and why he has moved to Shanghai after eight years and the life he now leads.
How his company deals with the issue of fakes, supply chain and the customers desire for the cheapest product.
How he has overcome the difficulties of doing business in an environment that has competitors that don’t always play fair, import and supply chain issues and customers that want the cheapest deal in the health, wellness and fitness industry; and the trap that people with little experience of doing business in China fall into.
Drew discusses frankly the two business models that he believes will produce success and how this links to the planned expansion of his business, the difference between marketing to the expat community or general population, the issue of moving production to China, the question of the Chinese market opening up, consumer pressure that affects pricing and product quality, why his competitors fail, the pressure from and cleaning up the grey market as a sole distributor when USA producers don’t police the Asian market allowing product into China from other locations.
The therapy session continues with Drew’s open and honest views reveal what it is like to work in the Chinese business environment and he describes the role of business planning, MBA’s and purchased market research, how failure leads to the inexperienced to the conclusion that they will never return.
Drew states how businesses can overcome many of these issues that lead to failure by taking advice from entrepreneurs like him, and hints at the plans he is putting in place to take the next step in his own business’s development.
China has changed Drew for the better but there is a cost to his entrepreneurial efforts and on self-reflection examines what his responsibilities are and what and how he can improve.
The business is a bright light for growth and last year saw an increase in online sports nutrition and vitamins sales of 100%. Business strategy is the key and the concept of O2O (Offline to Online/Online to Offline) has to be considered, which will see the growth of stores and larger warehousing (Bricks and Mortar facilities), which builds brand trust.
Drew finishes with advice with advice to anyone thinking of or taking up the challenge of becoming an entrepreneur in China.
The link to World Health Store.