A lot of people ask me why I came to China – rightfully so.
How did this idea start? What the do you even do, Stan?
The point of this post is for me to finally answer your questions.
What do I even do?
I have a very long answer for this, and I love that answer because I get to talk about what I love doing, and the market that fascinates me – understandably, most people don’t want to hear it, they just want the boring answer. Fine… you people win.
Well everyone – I’m in retail. We sell “nice stuff.”
Let’s add another layer to it
All jokes aside, simply just saying I’m in retail doesn’t really give me much justice– our project is much more than just that. We take boutique European brands with a history of local success and introduce them to the enormous market of China with over 1.4 billion people. We package our partner brand’s identity and culture, effectively restructuring its image to fit the entirely unique market of China. We have luggage, travel bags, leather goods, jewelry, wine, and jewelry – we sell what Europeans make the best.
Is that it?
Well, this is usually where I add in other “sexy” terms to strike people who want to hear more “start-up” such as “e-commerce,” “new-retail,” “segmented marketing model,” and “social media.” For the sake of this article, that’s the last I’ll mention those terms. I’ll admit it, it’s just “fluff.” Well – everything but “new retail,” more on that later.
In China’s current “technologically adapted” market where e-commerce lives through smartphones and where cashless, mobile payments thrive; traditional retailers might need catching up, but those terms should be already expected for a retail start-up.
What makes you special?
The short: we sell the our “different” products in a more effective way.
The long: get ready for it… why do brands choose us? There must be tons of competition! What’s “more effective?”
Why do brands choose us?
Believe it or not, retail in China doesn’t contain too much companies with our strategy. Most of the legitimate boutique brands in Europe are too intimidated to enter the relentless Chinese market for a variety of reasons: significant language barriers, complex import and duty laws, and an entirely different set of tastes and preferences. Most don’t want to work with local Chinese distributors as many will effectively copy designs, effectively “stealing their products.”
That’s where we’re our opportunity comes in – our procurement representatives in Europe are fluent in Italian and French, many with years of experience within the fashion manufacturing industry – enabling us to gain enough trust to partner with these brands as their exclusive and sole-distributor in China, effectively representing their entire brand for the Chinese market. We navigate through all those complex hurdles – a big thanks to my local “all-star” team and have years of experience in these areas.
There must be competition…
The competition we do face: China’s consumer markets are dominated by scaled, expensive international brands or cheap local brands. Believe it or not, there’s currently a shortfall in affordable, high-quality or handmade boutique brands from Europe. This upper-mid tier market currently is growing quickly, together with China’s rapid rise in disposable income. For the competition we do have, the majority are brands owned by local consumers who masquerade as legitimate international brands by creating a fancy Italian name or by purchasing a defunct 20-year old Italian brand – evil geniuses, aren’t they?
There is a lot of competition, but this is what we’re dealing with: big brands that will sometimes charge a premium of almost 50% compared to products sold overseas, and local brands, well – they’re “stuff” is cheap, too cheap. One thing to note: “Made in China” for the Chinese market, isn’t “Made in China” for the United States market. I get ridiculed weekly by co-workers in the office for not peeling my “chemical filled” apple skin, drinking “fake” liquor, or buying that bag on Taobao that’ll probably fall apart “soon.” We’re not trying to replace the large global brands, our company is simply delivering alternative, quality, yet affordable and legitimate options for the consumer.
What’s effective selling?
Well, let’s start with what we do best: “New Retail.”
In China, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, by far the largest e-commerce company in China, dubbed the “New Retail” model, new, flexible e-commerce platforms and physical stores are constantly evolving together, cross border sales are becoming less burdensome- making “buying” so much easier for the consumer. Retail sales are growing to record levels year after year.
We take that approach as the core of our business. We don’t just “have stores” or “sell online.” We take that a step further.
We run, with the help of our strategic partners: the entire supply chain, warehousing, logistics, operation, marketing, retailing, and distribution. We combine both China’s online and offline sales experience. We’ve partnered with almost all major e-commerce platforms and with the help of B2B partnerships, plan to establish a retail presence in all major cities in China by end of 2019. We’ve embraced new social media-oriented e-commerce platforms such as Wechat Store and Little Red Book, furthering diversifying our ways we sell.
How did this even start?
The short answer to how this opportunity even came to fruition: a diverse set of partners coming together with the brilliant idea after spending time in China, and countless hours on market research and opportunity.
Now the answer for why me, why China?
I can honestly talk for hours about this. I love it. It’s my life now – and unfortunately there’s I really don’t think there’s a short answer for this. I used to believe the decision to leave my job, my home, my friends, had come from weeks of self-thought and meant I needed hours to explain. However, looking back I was naïve, the answer was easy.
Opportunity. Experience. Growth.
I was completely blessed when the opportunity arose for me to take this chance. I’ve always wanted to experience an entirely new culture, improve my Chinese, learn something entirely new. To take my growth to a new level, becoming an entrepreneur (shout out to my Babson family). I loved working in New York City, but I always knew if I didn’t take this chance – I’d regret it. It wasn’t just about the appeal of starting a company and the possibility of glory; I felt as even though I had learned a solid foundation in finance and analyzing businesses, I never actually experienced operating a business.
Well, I took that chance and I’m happy I did.
Still want to know more? That’s enough for a blog post, how about we grab coffee?