The Unraveling of Metersbonwe’s China Empire

What Happened: Domestic fashion brand Metersbonwe announced the closure of its flagship store on Shanghai’s Nanjing East Road. A well-known landmark in the city, it was open for 15 years. The corporation put the closure down to the epidemic’s impact, operating costs, and rental prices.

Metersbonwe Group is one of the largest China casualwear apparel companies. The namesake brand was founded in 1995 and primarily targeted younger consumers. It started franchising in 2000 and listed on the Shenzhen SME Board in 2008. As of the first half of 2021, the corporation had 1,781 stores — a significant decrease from 3,439 in 2013.

The Jing Take: Metersbonwe found success in the 2000s by capturing the culture of the post-80s and 90s generations. Whether it was the slogan “Be Different” or the diversified clothing styles, the brand quickly catered to the needs of the young and increasingly fashion-conscious consumer base. In 2003, it appointed the popular star Jay Chou as its ambassador, and as a result of this surging popularity, was the leading apparel seller in 2004. 

Its star continued to rise until 2012 when the emergence of e-commerce and online shopping challenged the giant’s strategy of offline expansion. Foreign fast fashion businesses began to rise in the local market at this time too, such as Uniqlo and Gap. 

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Under pressure, Metersbonwe introduced a series of initiatives with the aim of building back their youth market share: a new brand logo last year, (“metersbonwe” in lowercase) in an effort to highlight the firm’s positioning among streetwear pioneers; singer Huang Minghao was appointed spokesperson; and it held its first-ever runway show. 

Gen-Z idol Huang Minghao was appointed Metersbonwe’s ambassador last year. Photo: Metersbonwe’s Weibo

On the surface they appeared to work; the financial report for the first quarter of 2021 indicated that operating revenue was $100 million (797 million RMB) with a net profit of more than $1.57 million (100 million RMB). However, these gains were, in fact, due to the sale of real estate. Moreover, the flagship closure will have dealt a big blow to the once iconic brand and shows that it’s not only global names that have a hard road ahead to reach China’s fussy — yet lucrative — Gen-Z market. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.


Companies, Fashion