Toronto-based coffee chain Tim Hortons has opened 33 cafes in the country and another 1,500 stores are on the way. Credit: Courtesy CBC.

You may not realize it, but Shanghai has become a “fierce battlefield.”

We’re not talking about crime or Asian gangs or even the ongoing coronavirus epidemic — we’re talking about international brands increasingly recognizing the city as a brand “launching pad” to success in China.

According to a report in China Daily, Japanese lifestyle megastore “Niko and…” opened its first store in China in downtown Shanghai in late December.

Covering 3,500 square meters, the three-storey flagship store is the largest of the 130 shops that the Japanese lifestyle leader has built globally, the report said.

Kitamura Yoshiaki, board member and general manager of the sales division of Adastria Co., the owner of the “Niko and …”brand, described the launch of the megastore — which sells 4,000 types of products and includes a cafe — as a “water-testing “endeavor in the Chinese market, as lifestyle megastores are still a rarity in the country, the report said.

Although Shanghai is probably the “fiercest battlefield” for retail brands, the pros outweigh the cons, according to Yoshiaki.

“Shanghai has moved quickly up the global fashion ladder, making it a flag-bearer to host new entrants like us,” he said.

Canada’s largest quick service restaurant chain Tim Hortons opened a coffee shop in Shanghai in February 2019, marking its first step in the Chinese market. Since then, the Toronto-based coffee chain has opened 33 cafes in the country and another 1,500 stores are on the way over the next 10 years, the report said.

According to Tim Hortons’ China CEO Lu Yongchen, the reasons for choosing Shanghai as the company’s first stop in China can be largely attributed to its position as the most mature Chinese coffee market, and more importantly, the city’s ability to serve as a first-stop bellwether, the report said.

“If a brand is welcomed in Shanghai, it is safe to say that the brand will be able to seek sustained growth in China,” he said.

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