Bosideng bets on building global brand

Updated: 2013-02-05 02:10

(China Daily)

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Bosideng bets on building global brand

People walk in front of a billboard for the Bosideng clothing brand in Yichang, Hubei province. Liu Junfeng / For China Daily

Chinese clothing firm Bosideng International Holdings Ltd aims to accelerate its expansion in Europe after setting foot in Britain, reports Ding Qingfen in London

While all Western retail brands are talking about investing in emerging markets, led by China, Chinese down jacket maker, Bosideng, has its sights set in the opposite direction.

Last summer, the world's largest feather jacket manufacturer announced it was buying a six-story property near busy Oxford Street in London's West End for 21 million pounds ($33 million). Occupying the building's ground and second floors, Bosideng opened its men's wear flagship store in London in July, its first store in Europe and its first abroad.

But Bosideng's ambition doesn't stop there. It is accelerating its pace of expansion in Europe, which still leads the global fashion industry, although it is losing economic growth momentum.

"We are considering expanding our business and entering high-end shopping malls in London, probably early this year," Zhu Wei, CEO of Bosideng Corp UK, told China Daily.

And not just in London. Zhu said the down jacket producer is in talks with some European counterparts, probably from Italy, on acquisition deals.

"Through cooperation, we could help them enhance their presence in China, and they could assist Bosideng in making inroads into Italian and other European markets," Zhu said, declining to elaborate.

The company is also reportedly targeting expansion in the United States, where it has a sales presence, looking for a store property in New York.

Zhu said the six-story London building, at 28 South Molton Street, one of the city's most prestigious and expensive retail addresses, is "iconic".

Covering a floor area of 1,600 square meters and housing stores, offices and apartments, the building is opposite London's famous department store Selfridges, and near two subway stations.

The company will invest about 8 million pounds to reconstruct the three-story store, Zhu said.

"The building is the first foray that Bosideng has ever made abroad, and through the landmark building, we expect to enhance our brand popularity and reputation," he said.

Bosideng Chairman and CEO Gao Dekang once said: "The acquisition of the property is an important move by Bosideng in its expansion into the international market and development into a world-famous brand."

With about 12,000 stores at the end of September, Bosideng has been tapping the domestic market since its foundation in 1975.

Today its business includes not only down jackets, but also menswear, which accounts for a growing part of its sales revenue.

During the first half of the 2012 financial year, Bosideng's sales from down jackets rose by 3.8 percent from a year earlier to 1.84 billion yuan ($295 million), accounting for 60 percent of the company's total sales revenue during the same period.

The company has been an original equipment manufacturer for a range of famous foreign brands for many years, a topic on which Zhu refused to elaborate.

"Annually, the OEM production generates sales worth 140 million yuan," Zhu said.

"It's not a small business, but the problem is that the Bosideng brand is not known in international markets. It's quite new, especially in the European market," he added.

This is also why Bosideng is willing to invest a lot outside China.

"Everything is there. We have quality goods, long-term commitment and capital. Why not give it a try?" Zhu said.

But he added promoting the brand abroad is an arduous and time-consuming task.

About five years ago, Bosideng began market research and decided to launch operations in Europe, a market where consumption remains weak.

The ironic result is a Chinese fashion brand investing a lot to enter the debt-stricken European market, while Western retailers and luxury brands are seeking expansion and a firmer foothold in China.

Soon after Bosideng's move to open its London flagship store, Joyce Group, a major Chinese fashion brand, cooperated with Italian designer Romeo Gigli, opening a pop-up boutique in Venice, Italy, Joyce's first presence in Europe.

"We took London as the first step because it is a place that gathers the most well-known menswear brands. We hope to improve our design here and learn from them," Zhu said.

But looking ahead, the first such step for Bosideng is bold and not easy, considering the economic woes in Europe, Zhu said.

"But we are clear that we should go out and build Bosideng into a globally well-known menswear brand through standing firm in the UK and Europe. This is a long-term strategy," he said.

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