US eco-friendly fashion brand riding high on Chinese e-commerce platform

Date: 19 Jan 2020

NEW YORK -- San Francisco-based young fashion brand Allbirds Inc which makes shoes and apparels with sustainable materials like wool, eucalyptus tree fibers and sugarcane, is seeing expectation-beating sales in China by integrating online and offline sales.

As a new player moving into the Chinese market, Allbirds, a direct-to-consumer brand, opens four physical stores in China and runs its own online sales website to control its retail inventory, said Eric Haskell, international president of Allbirds, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Meanwhile, Allbirds also joined Chinese major e-commerce platform Tmall.com under Alibaba Group to raise consumer awareness and facilitate online ordering.

"It's been a great partnership. It's helped us really increase brand awareness of Allbirds in China," Haskell told Xinhua on the sidelines of Retail's Big Show 2020, an annual expo held by the US National Retail Federation here from Sunday to Tuesday.

Since April, Allbirds has created four locations in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou -- capital of southern China's Guangdong province, and Chengdu -- capital of southwestern China's Sichuan province, where consumers can try on its unique and differentiated products, Haskell said, adding that the brand's business on Tmall has also synced up with its in-store sales.

"We also wanted to make Chinese consumers aware of the Allbirds brand and there's no better way to make consumers aware than being on Tmall," which caters to over 700 million consumers, he added.

Allbirds has made good use of tools provided by Tmall to pass its message on sustainability and environmental-friendly products to Chinese consumers, said Christina Fontana, head of fashion and luxury for Tmall Luxury Division in Europe.

Allbirds participated in the Chinese shopping holiday of Singles Day on Nov 11, offering exclusive products for Tmall and selling them on live streams, Fontana told Xinhua.

Allbirds has found Chinese consumers receptive to its products, partly because of its online representation and proactive education and communication with consumers.

Haskell did a lot public speaking and talked with consumers about the importance of personal choice on buying consumables and the impact on the environment, he recalled.

"I'm glad to say that Chinese consumers have been very receptive and sales have been beyond expectations," Haskell said.

Currently, Allbirds has around 50 percent of sales from online channels and another 50 percent from brick-and-mortar stores, with the same pricing for online and offline channels, according to Haskell.

Allbirds will open more stores in China within 2020 primarily focusing on certain provincial capitals, as well as other first- and second-tier cities, Haskell said, calling many provincial capitals in China huge cities with sophisticated consumer base.

Launched in 2016, the company has a presence in 19 countries and regions now. It sources raw merino wool from New Zealand, which is made into fabrics in Italy and eventually transformed into shoes in South Korea, Haskell said.

Allbirds also sources eucalyptus tree fibers from sustainable farms in South Africa and the products made from the fibers -- the "Tree shoes" -- are made in China's Guangdong, he added.

"For brands that want to come to China, the most important piece of working with Tmall is (that) brands can understand where they need to have their products and when," Fontana said.

Brands could analyze data from Tmall's trading center to develop online and offline sales strategy, she explained.

Source: China Daily

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