Chinese retailer Bosideng sails ahead with overseas plans
By Neil Maidment
LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Bosideng International Holdings , China's largest maker and distributor of down clothing, is eyeing store openings in Milan and New York if its first overseas venture in London proves a hit with the British capital's shoppers.
The group, which has over 8,000 retail outlets in China, made its first international foray in July, opening a flagship store in London's South Molton Street, close to some of the city's most prestigious retail haunts.
For a company with profits of around 1.4 billion yuan ($223 million), the 35 million pound cost of its new store, which will serve as its European headquarters, is a sizeable investment.
But its chairman and founder said it would not stop there.
"We want to use this very first flagship store as a basis for future expansion inside and outside of the UK," Gao Dekang told Reuters on Friday.
The store, whose products start at around 45 pounds and climb into the thousands, is not far from Savile Row and Jermyn Street, two London streets famous for their upmarket tailoring.
Bosideng's trademark down-padded jackets, on sale in London alongside limited collections of wool blazers and dark suits, will compete with brands like British waterproof jacket maker Barbour and Moncler, which makes goose-down jackets.
"We are having discussions with a major Italian brand which we will partner with to open a store in Milan. We will bring their brand into China and they will help us establish a retail presence in Italy," said Gao.
That move is planned for autumn or winter next year, the group said, adding it was also on the look out for a store property in New York where it already has a wholesale presence.
The ambitious plan to bring Chinese style to top fashion cities is a far cry from Bosideng's humble beginnings in 1976 when Gao would ride his bike 80km to Shanghai to showcase his work, creating a pair of men's trousers in 17 minutes.
The brand is arriving overseas at a time when the latest PMI (purchasing managers' index) data suggests the euro zone's economic woes accelerated last month.
"The international expansion is a long-term strategy for Bosideng. We were going to do this anyway in the next few years so we don't really care what the current economic situation is," Gao said.
Gao said China's economic growth had also slowed down, but while firms like British fashion house Burberry have begun to feel the pinch there, Bosideng will double its China revenue in the next three years, he added.
Bosideng, whose shares have risen 33 percent in a year and which has a market value of around $2.4 billion, made revenue of around $1.34 billion for the year to Mar. 31, 2012.
Despite competing with the London Olympics and numerous construction works near the store, the group said trading in London had so far met expectations, adding it hoped to reach an agreement by the end of November to set up concessions in some UK department stores.
($1 = 6.2770 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)
Keywords: CHINA BOSIDENG/