RELX Technology recently unveiled the company’s first flagship store in China and announced its intention to invest RMB500 million/£55.9 million in establishing 10,000 stores globally over the next three years.

Despite only having opened its first owned retail store in January 2019, RELX now already operates over 1,400 RELX stores across 300 cities in China.

As one of China’s biggest e-cigarette brand holding a market share above 60 percent, the company is poised to strengthen its lead by accelerating its retail business.

“RELX is investing heavily in breakthrough technologies to enhance franchisees’ profit margins and increase consumer loyalty during the course of its brick-and-mortar expansion,” said Jiang Long, Co-founder and Head of Sales.

“As always, our focus will remain on preventing minors from using e-cigarette products and leading the path of innovation for the entire industry by developing advanced retail technology.”

Located in Shanghai’s bustling central business district, the 18+ store occupies 140 square meters and functions as a space to educate existing adult smokers and vapers on RELX vapour products.

The flagship store features a brand experience area, a consumer education area, an interactive zone, and device engraving services. In accordance with RELX’s Guardian Programme, all visitors are subject to strict age verification processes when entering the store or making a purchase.

RELX’s Project Sunflower facial recognition technology also ensures minors attempting to enter the store are identified automatically and denied service.

“Consumers nowadays prefer immersive shopping experiences, and we want to make this flagship a place where we can not only better communicate with them about our product and values but also better understand their needs,” said Wang Tao, head of RELX’s new retail business.

“We’re always on the lookout for ways to better serve our consumers,” Wang said, adding that RELX will launch stores in areas of interest in various cities, such as Beijing’s 798 art hub and Shenzhen’s Haigangcheng, to provide avant-garde experiences to consumers.

RELX’s commitment to underage access and use prevention is also seeing future-forward changes. At the flagship, its Project Sunflower initiative is in full effect, with facial recognition-equipped cameras alerting staff when a suspected underage person enters the store. Customers undergo another layer of automated verification to ensure a match between them and the ID presented when making a purchase.

Project Sunflower is already being implemented nationwide, with RELX aiming to install the system in 100 stores within the next three months and across all RELX stores within seven months. Under an unwavering penalty system, any retailers caught selling products to minors are set to be fined RMB200,000/over £22k for first-strike offences, with the possibility of total suspension of business in the event of future strikes.

“The flagship store demonstrates Project Sunflower’s central role in RELX’s retail division,” said Jiang. “As a visionary company, RELX is prepared to shoulder the responsibility of blazing the trail in tech-enabled social responsibility.”

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