Shooting for goal in the China market

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 2005, 12:00am

Manchester United are expanding their plan to conquer the Chinese market, with culturally friendly merchandise including lanterns and lai-see packets in the team's colours.

The lanterns will go on sale at this year's Mid-Autumn Festival.

GOfort Enterprises, Hong Kong and Macau distributor of the team's official merchandise, said they plan to launch a range of Chinese culture-related merchandise in the coming months to make the team more appealing to its army of Chinese fans.

The change in marketing strategy comes amid strong sales of Red Devil jerseys and other related souvenirs in Hong Kong ahead of today's friendly match with Hong Kong. Sales of statuettes of forwards Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo lead the charge in sales.

'When we suggested to the team producing lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival, they were puzzled initially,' manager Evans Choy Wai-yuk said.

'But we explained to them our desire to make Manchester United a popular brand which is not just about football-related [products] and that lanterns belong to one of the traditional Chinese festivals which we celebrate every year.'

Other products in the pipeline include Red Devil lai-see packets for the Lunar New Year, Mr Choy said. The company has so far invested about $1 million on the venture.

Meanwhile, demand for jerseys, at more than $500 each, has risen by 30 per cent in the past few days, said Roy Low, manager of the 352 Soccer Square sports store in Mongkok. 'More than 10 jerseys go every day,' he said.

Peter Lam, manager of Our Teams shop in Wan Chai, was busy refilling the shelves with Manchester souvenirs.

'Statuettes are almost out. Autographed balls are out. There's only one logo flag left,' said Mr Lam.

He said 20 to 30 statuettes were being sold daily with Rooney and Ronaldo the hottest, followed by Ryan Giggs.

An exhibition of Red Devil souvenirs at the newly-opened APM shopping mall in Kwun Tong had seen 150,000 visitors since Tuesday, said Maureen Fung, general manager of Sun Hung Kai Real Estates Agency.