Taiwan clothing brands explore global market
Laura Ho,The China Post October 28, 2002, 12:00 am TWN
With successful experience on their branding strategies for the market in Taiwan, some Taiwan clothing firms have been exploring the international market.
Les enphants, a Taiwan-based brand of children and babies' clothing and accessories, has extended its sales network into mainland China, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
Sitting in the company's Neihu headquarters, Yeh Chii-hsien, executive vice president of les enphants, pointed out several aspects of the company's branding strategy: customer relations, multi-branding strategy and network management.
As to the multi-branding strategy, Yeh said that his company expands its operations by acting as agents for international brands of related goods.
Yeh regards efficient store management as an essential way for les enphants to build a high-end brand. "Presentation, service and product quality are three crucial factors for a successful brand," said Yeh. "We hope that customers coming to our stores will enjoy the services we provide," he added.
Additionally, Yeh believes well-managed customer relations are essential for les enphants to become a success. For example, les enphants uses market survey companies to conduct opinion polls. This way, the company will know what customers think about their products and how to improve.
Les enphants houses its research and development (R&D) and design departments in its Taipei headquarters. It launches new products four times a year. Before the start of a new season, the Taipei headquarters previews the new designs, themes and materials for its staff in its Taiwan and overseas stores.
"Staff in subsidiaries abroad will then choose the designs that are suitable for local market and be responsible for their own manufacturing. The Taiwan headquarters will provide the necessary know-how and specifications," Yeh said. The company is thus able to maintain its brand quality and uphold its worldwide image.
As a result of successful brand management, the company now has 200 sales locations in Taiwan. Yeh cited mainland statistics when he said that les enphants is one of the most popular brands for kids' and babies' clothing in the eastern mainland, including the Shanghai metropolitan area.
However, Yeh does not believe that building a brand name is an easy task. "It takes lots of time, money and effort to establish a successful brand name," he said. He encourages companies that are interested in brand building to increase their creativity and to lift management skills.
The case of Shiatzy Chen is another success story. Established in 1978, the designer brand caters to the high-end market. It opened its Paris flagship store in 2001, symbolizing the company's ascension onto the international stage.
Charles Wang, president of Shiatzy International Co., said that the company established a workshop in Paris in a bid to better catch up with trends in the international city. The firm dispatches its staff designers to Paris every season to study the latest fashion and techniques there. It represents the company's strategies for training its staff with the global view and advanced skills.
As for Shiatzy Chen's marketing and branding strategies, Wang stressed that the company highly respects the feelings and points of view of its customers on its clothes.
Besides, Wang said, "We produce designs that can last for at least three or five years."
The company recently adopted the "coupons" policy rather than discounts for sales promotion. Customers who buy a certain amount of apparel from Shiatzy Chen receive coupons, which can be used toward their next purchase. "We spend about NT$30 million a year on the policy. The strategy is successful in keeping customers loyal to the brand," said Wang.
Noting the company's past experience in overseas markets, Wang stressed the importance for a company to develop its own brand name. Shiatzy Chen used to have agents selling its products in Japan. However, Wang pointed out, that policy failed because it didn't present to consumers an image of integration. Flagship stores, he stressed, are a better way to present the concepts that a brand wants to deliver.
Wang stressed that it takes time to establish a brand. He encouraged Taiwan designers to work hard on basic skills such as cutting and sampling in order to become successful.
Tony Wear is another successful example. Based in Shanghai as a special overseas division of Tainan Enterprises Co., it developed its own brand name for the high-end men's apparel market on the mainland. The company now sells its products in more than 200 locations around the mainland, mostly in the big cities.
BIANCO Group, an apparel brand established in 1998 by a Taiwan singer, stepped up its mainland operations two years ago. With its recent expansion to 115 sales posts and 18 sales agents on the mainland, the group is another example of a Taiwan company that has been able to develop a brand name on the mainland.
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