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

Next stop, formaldehyde-free mattresses?

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


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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