Quiksilver takes big leap of faith in the mainland
Extreme sports are gaining in China and one US firm is right at the front of the attack, writes Mark O'Neill in Shanghai
The world's biggest outdoor skateboard stadium in Shanghai, a star jumping over the Great Wall and a snowboard school offered in the city's indoor ski slope.
This is how a California company listed on the New York Stock Exchange is attacking the Chinese market, riding into town on skateboards and snowboards to persuade consumers to buy its fashion, sportswear and accessories.
Quiksilver, with worldwide sales of US$1.27 billion and 4,350 employees last year, is a latecomer to the mainland market, having arrived in Shanghai in October 2003, via a 50-50 joint venture with Hong Kong-listed company Glorious Sun.
It has since opened four stores in Shanghai, with a fifth to follow in September, and one in Beijing by the end of the year.
Its 10th and biggest store in Hong Kong has just opened in Kimberley Plaza.
In the mainland it is trying the formula it uses abroad to attract customers: promotion and sponsorship of extreme sports, surfing, and skateboarding and snowboarding. Shanghai has about 300 skateboarders and the national No1 is Che Lin.
'Skateboarding is likely to be in the Olympics and the government wants to support it,' said Brian Smith, marketing manager for core sports for the company in Shanghai. 'The government is promoting it as a healthy form of sport.'
The world's biggest outdoor skateboard arena will be housed in the Jiangwan district and will occupy 27,000 square metres in a giant sports complex. The designer is Convict, an Australian firm that has designed skateboard parks worldwide.
The city wants the arena to hold international events, as with its Formula One track, and hopes to host an Olympic event there in 2008.
'Chinese youth are looking for new ways to express themselves,' Mr Smith said. 'The basic path of school, work and football is less desirable. We are trying to combine the spirit of youth, independence and fashion.'
The company's biggest promotion of the year was to invite Danny Way, the world's top skateboarder, to jump over the Great Wall on July 11, an event that received global television coverage. Way is the team rider of DC Shoes, which Quiksilver bought this year.
The firm plans to open a skateboard school on the campus of East China University, to which Glorious Sun donated a business administration building, and have the course designated as a sport credit.
It is also building a snowboard park in the city's indoor ski centre, where it will promote snowboarding. In November, it is sponsoring a snowboard competition with Nokia in Shanghai, Beijing and Yabuling in Heilongjiang province.
Like other foreign brands, the company faces extensive counterfeiting. Fake Quiksilver shirts sell for 30 yuan to 80 yuan, against 190 for a real one.
'It does not bother us too much,' Mr Smith said. 'It's a form of free promotion. When the purchasing power of Shanghai people increases, they will see the difference and buy the real thing.'