Timberland LLC, a United States-based maker of footwear, clothing and accessories, plans to open 60 to 70 more stores in China in 2014 to meet growing demand from the middle class in the world’s second-largest economy, a senior executive said.
Chinese people would like to consume more premium-brand products as their disposable incomes increase, Stewart Whitney, vice president and managing director of Timberland Asia Pacific Region, told the Hong Kong Economic Journal’s EJ Insight in an interview.
Over the next five years, Timberland aims to achieve 22 percent annual growth in sales in the country, compared with an average 13 percent rise in Asia, Whitney said.
China is poised to be the company’s third largest revenue contributor next year, up from No. 4 this year and No. 5 in 2010, he said.
A subsidiary of the world’s largest apparel maker, VF Corp., Timberland entered the China market in 2006 and will have about 200 self-owned and franchised outlets across the country by the end of this year.
As part of its expansion strategy, the company will make use of its sister brands including The North Face and Lee, which enjoy higher market penetration rates in China.
For example, the Lee brand, which has been in China since 1995, has a vast marketing database which Timberland can use to make more accurate sales projections and decisions on store locations, Whitney said. Hopefully, new stores will turn a profit after a year of operation, he said.
Timberland aims to open standalone stores for female customers to tap fast-growing demand from the market segment, following a similar move it made in Taiwan, Whitney said.
“Women’s collection will remain one of our major growth engines,” he said. The company plans to launch more products catering for Asian ladies.
“Women’s market is a top priority for us. We expect our revenue growth in this segment to be slightly more than 20 percent in Asia in the coming years,” Whitney said.
At the same time, the company will boost sales through online platforms. Apart from its current partnership with Alibaba Group’s T-mall.com, it also aims to link up with other mainland e-commerce websites next year.
“We will add at least one more e-commerce platform early next year,” he said.
China’s online sales will grow 20 to 30 percent this year, from US$190 billion in 2012, PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd. said. Last year’s sales figure was a 35 percent gain from the previous year, with 68 percent contributed by apparel and the rest mostly from household goods as well electronics and digital products.
T-mall.com is now one of the largest online business-to-customer shopping malls in China. Its closest rivals include JD.com and Suning.com.
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