Stitched up for success

By Mike Bastin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-24 16:41
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Success at home propels Wenzhou apparel maker to top 10 list in the world

Stitched up for success

People walk past a Metersbonwe store in Hangzhou. The apparel maker has more than 3,000 stores nationwide. [Photo / China Daily] 

We are all familiar with the China story and how important the nation is to the global economy. But it is not often that we hear of Chinese brands leaving a lasting impression in the marketplace.

Of course there are the big Chinese banks, insurers and telecom companies that have the pride of place in the global rankings, but there are also some lesser-known smaller brands that are trendsetters and pioneers in their respective segments.

According to data from the latest BrandZ survey, released by Millward Brown, an associate of global advertising giant WPP Inc, Chinese clothing brand Metersbonwe figures prominently in the top 10 most valuable global clothing brands.

At first glance, one would tend to dismiss the ranking as a mere statistic, but what makes the Wenzhou-based Metersbonwe a compelling tale is its remarkable transformation over the years, thanks to its modern approach to brand building and management.

The Shanghai-listed company leads the leisure apparel market in China and boasts of more than 3,000 stores nationwide. The company reported a sales turnover in excess of 10 billion yuan last year ($1.49 billion).

Like all success stories, Metersbonwe also started from humble origins. It was set up by Zhou Chengjian in Wenzhou in the early 1990s, with an initial capital of just 200,000 yuan. Zhou still runs the company and is a billionaire several times over, but his entrepreneurial spirit and drive continues to guide the company.

Much of today's success has its roots in the hands-on approach that Zhou has on the business. In the early years he was the sole trader and often worked late hours. In the night he doubled up as the tailor.

By 1992 he was tailoring thousands of winter coats for other factories and had reached a position from which he could build his own brand.

The first Metersbonwe store was opened in Wenzhou on April 22, 1995.

Considered by many as a pioneer in the Chinese apparel industry, Zhou decided to adopt the "virtual operation" business model and set up franchised chain stores that used the Metersbonwe corporate brand name.

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Back then the company realized the importance of local market characteristics and changes in fashion and largely employed local designers but also brought in an exp erienced team from France for expert consultations.

That gamble paid off when Metersbonwe clocked growth of over 30 percent year after year.

Circa 2011 and nothing much seems to have changed. Much of the early strategy is still in place and the company focuses largely on the fashion conscious 18-25-year-old market segment, with affordable and good quality products.

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