Li-Ning to Settle in France

Li-Ning, the Chinese brand of shoes and sportswear is about to land in France.

Unlike its main competitors (Nike, Adidas and Puma), manufactured in China, but designed in the United States and Germany, Li-Ning is an authentic Chinese brand. Founded in 1990 by Li Ning, a Chinese gymnast who won six medals at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, the brand wants to be the Chinese “Nike”. Its logo appears clearly inspired by the “swoosh” emblem of the world leader. Listed on Hong Kong Stock Exchange since 2004, Li-Ning, whose turnover last year close to 1 billion euros, signed an agreement with the Finnish L-Fashion Group. The latter will design specific Li-Ning collections for Europe and distribute them. Opening of a flagship, the presence of corners in multi-brand distributors or trendy boutiques, the strategy remains secret. The marketing will begin in spring 2012.

Li-Ning carries 98% of its sales in China, where it has 8,000 stores. In 2007, it opened a research laboratory in the United States, Portland (Oregon), the birthplace of Nike. In overseas market it is distributed by Champs Sports and Eastbay (Group Foot Locker).

Li Ning received a boost during the Beijing Olympics. The president and owner of 30% stake in the group, Li Ning was the final torchbearer during the Olympic opening ceremony.

The group has seen its peak then. Since then, been a victim of its rapid growth and price rises, Li-Ning found it hard to sell its stocks. As a result, sales in China increased more slowly than those of Nike and have even declined since January. The group needs to internationalize and to fight against its Western competitors on their traditional playgrounds. Like its competitors, Li-Ning outsources its production to China and focuses on the design and marketing. It hired the stars of track and field (Asafa Powell), basketball (Shaquille O’Neal) and tennis (Ivan Ljubicic) for its promotion. But faced with a giant like Nike, whose sales exceed $ 20 billion, its investment capacity is still weak in advertising.