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Chinese Sport Shoe-Maker Looking to Invade U.S. Market

January 24, 2011


You must be very brave to try and compete with Nike in the athletic sneaker industry. Chinese shoemaker brand Li-Ning is just that, as its trying to make his way into the long dominated market.

Li-Ning is going to try and infiltrate the market by making all of his products on the lower end of the budget. Using free advertising through Youtube, Li-Ning is trying to make light of an almost impossible situation- breaking into Nike domain.

Among one of the first Chinese based brands to enter into the U.S. market, Li-Ning is helping to represent the increasing confidence that Chinese companies have about overseas expansion. Chinese economic status is increasing at a sharp pace, replacing Japan as last year’s biggest economy, second only to the U.S.

"It's a process of finding out — while staying true to our heritage, our brand — what side of our DNA is going to resonate with the American consumer," Jay Li, general manager for Li-Ning International, stated in a press release. "We're still searching, to be perfectly honest with you. And we're not in a hurry."

Already a top brand in China’s shoe industry, Li-Ning has over 7,900 stores across the country of China. Even though Li-Ning plans on investing a staggering $10 million on their first year of U.S. operations, is this the right time? Americans are still reeling from the effects of the Recession causing them to spend a lot less on tangible items. Chinese items also have a reputation for simply being a cheaper, not quality copy of what American businesses are already making.

The greatest question if Li-Ning can reinvent the American perception of Chinese made products? "The way to fight the perception is to continue rolling out your own world-class products and that perception will go away," said Li.

Expansion into the U.S. is "important for them because if they show they have retail presence in the U.S. it helps them not only sell there but it helps them sell in their home market in China and wherever else they go," stated Ben Cavender, associate principal at Shanghai-based China Market Research Group which has studied Li-Ning, in a press release. "They can say, 'Look, we really are an international brand.'"

Li-Ning has a quality product but "we need to bring in the cool factor, the street legitimacy, the street cred. Bring all these elements together and fuse them into the product. It's a systemic project and we are working on it," Li said in a press release.

What do you think? Are you ready to hang up your Nikes?

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Jamie Epstein is a TMCnet Web Editor. Previously she interned at News 12 Long Island as a reporter's assistant. After working as an administrative assistant for a year, she joined TMC (News - Alert) as a Web editor for TMCnet. Jamie grew up on the North Shore of Long Island and holds a bachelor's degree in mass communication with a concentration in broadcasting from Five Towns College. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jamie Epstein