CHINA: Marimekko to launch 15 stores in China by 201607.02.2012, 18:53
The Chinese travellers utilising Finnair's gateway to Europe through the Vantaa-Helsinki airport may have had a gaze at Marimekko's products – and so may the style-conscious Chinese who are on top of the textile development in the design centres of the world. But now it is time to gaze at Marimekkos imaginary and colourful patterns back home: Marimekko is coming to China.
The Finnish company has signed a partnership agreement with Hong Kong-based Sidefame which specialises in retailing a range of fashion and lifestyle brands. The aim of the partnership is to open 15 Marimekko stores in China and Hong Kong by the end of 2016.
The two partners are not unfamiliar with each other as Sidefame's Cocktail fashion shops have marketed Marimekko's lines for some time already.
The new Marimekko stores will be owned by Sidefame, and their locations, visual aspects and local marketing will be closely in line with Marimekko's policy.
The first store will be opened in Hong Kong this year and the next in Shanghai as soon as suitable store premises are found. The stores will follow the same concept as other new Marimekko stores. They will feature all of Marimekko's product lines and the best possible locations will be sought for them.
Marimekko's President and CEO Mika Ihamuotila says in a statement: "China is expected to overtake the United States as the world's biggest consumer market in the next few years, and we want to boost our recognition in time while the market still clearly has room for new and attractive brands."
The diligent Finns are not just falling over China by chance – the move has been prepared for years.
"Marimekko introduced its colourful world to the Chinese market in the Finnish pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010," says Marimekko's PR Manager Maarit Heikkilä to news2biz.
"This was done in a variety of forms: in the exhibition itself as well as in the decoration of different facilities and the clothing worn by the staff. During the Expo, the world of Marimekko prints also presented itself in an entirely new setting: Jin Xing, the world-renowned Chinese dancer and the founder and artistic director of Jin Xing Dance Theatre, created a Marimekko dance piece that premiered in the Expo Center Auditorium in Shanghai at the Finland Day Gala on 27 May 2010. The Marimekko performance by Jin Xing Dance Theatre grasped the essence of Marimekko's design philosophy manifested in brightly coloured and distinctive patterns to the Chinese audience."
"We have a common vision with Sidefame on how to build the brand and position of Marimekko in the Chinese market systematically and with a very long perspective," continues Ihamoutila.
"I think there are some signs of overheating in the Chinese retail trade, but we want to build our network of stores step by step on a firm basis and without rushing. It will take years to achieve the position we are aiming for, and results should not be expected too early. I am firmly convinced that the 22 shops in Japan and South Korea will support our operations in China, as many Chinese people find out about foreign clothing and interior decoration brands in places like Tokyo, Osaka and Seoul."
Heikkilä elaborates on Marimekko's strategy in China and the shared philosophy with Sidefame:
"There are signs of many fashion and lifestyle brands expanding in China, too fast, making too many compromises. Marimekko's and Sidefame's aim is to build a cult design brand and this takes time and may happen only by the cost of short-term profits. More and more Chinese start to follow brands they like in a much deeper way, a little like that has happened in Japan. This is perhaps due to the long traditions in civilisation. Many brands that have tried to get as much as possible as soon as possible have lost their attractiveness in the eyes of Chinese consumers. This is what we want to avoid," says Heikkilä.
According to the agreement, Sidefame will have exclusive rights to import and retail Marimekko products in China and Hong Kong. Marimekko will, however, retain rights to e-commerce.
Part of the Fenix Group, Sidefame currently operates 79 stores in China and Hong Kong for different brands, such as Furla, 45R, Anteprima and Atsuro Tayama. Side-fame was also the first to bring Italian fashion brand Prada to Hong Kong.
Marimekko has had excellent experience with a similar business model in Japan and South Korea, where there are currently 22 Marimekko stores. From January to September 2011, sales in the Asia-Pacific region grew by more than 50% and the area became Marimekko's second-biggest market, overtaking Scandinavia.
Marimekko was founded in 1951 by Viljo and Armi Ratia. In 2010, the brand sales of Marimekko products worldwide were around EUR 150m and the net sales amounted to EUR 73m. The number of Marimekko stores totalled 84 at the year-end. The NASDAQ OMX Helsinki listed group employs around 400 people.