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Famous Chinese athletic shoemaker eyes greater growth

By WANG YING in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-26 01:15

As part of efforts to rejuvenate itself, Chinese athletic shoe brand Warrior, or Huili in Chinese, launched a corporate cooperative system in May.

"Warrior is a brand of the Chinese people and we are responsible for developing and protecting the brand," said Zhou Wei, executive director of Shanghai Warriorshoes Co Ltd.

"We are open to all kinds of cooperations as long as they are good for Warrior and China's shoe manufacturing industry, as well as for the future development of Chinese time-honored brands."

Warrior said that it plans to carry out more cooperations this year, such as launching shoes with popular IP (intellectual property) partners including Peppa Pig and Paul Frank.

Warrior's latest move is in line with the Shanghai municipal government's objective to revitalize its time-honored brands through a three-year action plan, in turn making the city a more attractive shopping destination for domestic and foreign consumers.

"In the shoe market, fierce competition and bright prospects coexist, and they are driving Warrior to continue our development," said Zhang Yuming, the newly appointed chief technology officer of Warrior.

A report from the Beijing-based Forward Industry Research Institute showed that China is currently the world's largest shoemaker and exporter, manufacturing about 12 billion pairs of shoes a year and accounting for about 60 percent of the world's total.

According to Euromonitor International data, revenue of China's footwear retail sector grew from $47.56 billion in 2013 to $56.59 billion last year, and it is expected to further expand to $68.27 billion by 2022. Meanwhile, global footwear retail volume grew from $295.73 billion in 2013 to $351.86 billion in 2017, and is projected to reach $402.99 billion by 2022.

The 91-year-old Warrior used to be China's sole athletic shoemaker before a group of new manufacturers mushroomed following the opening-up of the country.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the brand's shoes were considered high-end products, with a pair costing more than 10 yuan ($5), about one-third the salary of a person working in the urban areas. As such, only children who excelled in school were rewarded with a pair of Warrior shoes. These shoes were so coveted that they were only worn during special occasions.

Warrior shoes were also worn by China's top athletes, such as China's legendary volleyball players Lang Ping and Cao Yanhua and basketball player Zheng Haixia.

As Warrior has traditionally focused on functionality and comfort, major foreign brands such as Nike and Adidas quickly ate into their market share when they entered the country with their stylish designs that appealed to the younger generation. When the company underwent restructuring in 2000, most of their products were relegated to street-side stalls.

The brand then rode the nostalgia trend that swept through the country in 2008 and made a comeback. Warrior sold more than 65 million shoes last year that were manufactured through the brand's 23 authorized shoe manufacturers, said Zhou.

"Warrior probably cannot become a corporation that can generate more than 10 billion yuan in sales revenue annually, but we look forward to becoming a brand platform that can create enterprises that can achieve 10 billion yuan in revenue in the future," said Zhou.

There is still a long way to go before Warrior can regain its domination of the market. According to Euromonitor, the top five footwear brands in China are Nike Inc, Adidas Group, Skechers USA Inc, Kering SA and Asics Corp respectively.

Contact the writer at wang_ying@chinadaily.com.cn

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