Collective financing among Chinese entrepreneurs and department store retailing in China

Chinese entrepreneurship in department store retailing differed from that seen in other emerging economies before 1940. Rather than the leading examples of the format being owned by advanced economy firms, in China a small group of Cantonese entrepreneurs established what became known as the ‘Big Four’ department stores in Shanghai. By 1940 the ‘Big Four’ department stores were among the most famous stores in China, and among the biggest businesses in China. None of these Chinese entrepreneurs had any prior experience in department store retailing. Rather this article explains how their success in department store retailing was dependent on a business model that enabled these Chinese entrepreneurs to act as informal investment bankers (or ‘shadow’ banks) for the thousands of overseas Chinese wanting to invest surplus savings in mainland China, so creating large indigenous business groups.