Marimekko CEO Brushes Up On Mandarin As Brand Enters China Market

Company Plans 13 Stores In China By End Of 2016

Marimekko opened its first China standalone retail store in Hong Kong this week (Image: WGSN)

This week, the popular Finnish textile & clothing design house Marimekko made its first official foray into the China market, launching its inaugural retail location in Hong Kong. According to a company release, the company has its eyes on a new China expansion effort, with sights set on a Shanghai location “as soon as suitable premises are found” and an additional 13 mainland China stores by the end of 2016. As Marimekko CEO and year-long Mandarin learner Mika Ihamuotila said, “We expect China to have a significant impact on Marimekko’s operations,” though the country will lag behind Japan — the company’s second-largest market after its native Finland — for some time.

As Ihamuotila told the Helsingin Sanomat, despite its expansion plans, Marimekko understands the difficulties it will likely face in the China market. The company will look to court the country’s increasingly confident middle class via a “masstige” pricing strategy — critical, as brand worth among consumers in China is closely linked to pricing rather than simply brand history or quality. Said Ihamuotila, ”The first stores will show whether or not there is demand for a brand like Marimekko in the Chinese market.”

For its Greater China expansion effort, Marimekko is working with Sidefame, part of the Fenix Group, which retails a wide range of lifestyle brands. Currently, Sideframe operates nearly 80 stores in mainland China and Hong Kong for brands like Furla, Anteprima, 45R and Atsuro Tayama.

Marimekko Hong Kong

Marimekko’s relatively cautious approach to China is probably a smart move. Though the company is — officially — new to the market, knockoffs of its designs have been available throughout the Mainland for years. In preparation for its expansion, Marimekko said this week, it has registered its products in the market and hired a team of copyright lawyers. Marketing-wise, since around 60 percent of the items Marimekko will sell in China are made in Finland, expect the company to heavily plug its heritage. As CEO Ihamuotila put it this week, ”The fact that a product carries a ‘Made in Finland’ label makes it a luxury item. Chinese products have been imported into Finland for many decades, but now we are selling Finnish products to Chinese customers. This is quite a phenomenon. Manufacturing costs are no longer so important.”

As for Ihamuotila’s Chinese-language skills, the CEO told the Helsingin Sanomat that he’s proficient enough “to assure [the Chinese] that we are serious about this new venture.”

Categories

Fashion, Industry Sectors, Investment & Real Estate