The prolonged COVID-19 pandemic was partially to blame, but to a greater extent, it was caused by the fierce competition from local players that embraced China’s unique retail landscape more than their international counterparts.
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A recent report from Chinese market intelligence firm Askci ranking the 10 biggest listed Chinese fashion companies by 2021 revenues provides a clearer picture the biggest local competitors that international brands need to be aware of, and what they can learn from them to stay competitive in the market.
Hailan Home tops the ranking with 20.18 billion renminbi, or $3 billion, in revenue last year. Founded 25 years ago, the group owns a dozen brands catering to different groups of consumers who mainly reside in lower-tier cities in China. As of September 2021, the group operated 7,537 stores worldwide.
With its main brand Hailan Home’s slogan “As a man, you only need to visit Hailan Home twice a year,” broadcast on prime time television over the years, the brand has cemented itself as a menswear destination for millions whose access to tailoring is limited.
The brand made its international debut in 2019 with a show during London Fashion Week but didn’t invest much on that front after. But its collaboration with menswear designer Xander Zhou was well-received among industry people.
Jihua Group ranks second on the list with 15.49 billion renminbi, or $2.3 billion, in revenue in 2021. This government-affiliated company is a key supplier to the People’s Liberation Army, the police force, the fire department, and state-owned conglomerates such as National Grid, National Rail and China Southern Airlines.
It manufactures a wide range of products, including army uniforms, combat boots, space suits, medical protective gear, and bulletproof vests and helmets. In recent years, the company had looked to diversify its portfolio by investing in more consumer-facing businesses, such as leisure experiences and suburban resorts.
Local fast-fashion giant Semir lands third with 15.2 billion renminbi, or $2.29 billion, in 2021 revenue. Known in the West for being a minority stakeholder in Jason Wu, the lower-tier focused fast-fashion company owned 8,495 stores across China as of 2022. It also operates Juicy Couture, Marc O’Polo, and kidswear labels Balabala, Hey Junior, Asics Kids and Puma Kids within China.
Both based in Jingbo, Zhejiang Province, Youngor Group and Peacebird score the fourth and fifth spots with 13.6 billion renminbi, or $2.02 billion, and 10.9 billion renminbi, or $1.62 billion, in 2021 revenue, respectively.
Youngor Group started as a men’s tailoring brand 43 years ago. It since has become a multifaceted conglomerate with businesses in apparel, property development, investment, textile manufacturing and global trade. The brand claims that it has had the highest market share in the shirting and men’s tailoring categories in China for more than two decades.
The company’s fashion unit, which includes Youngor, Youngor Mayor, Hart Schaffner Marx and Hanp, made 6.82 billion renminbi, or $1.01 billion, last year. It is also partnering with Norwegian performancewear label Helly Hansen to expand in China, as well as investing in the high-end golf lifestyle store S+G, and American streetwear brand Undefeated.
Peacebird is arguably the most successful one in the top 10 ranking in terms of being one of the first to adopt a trendier image to woo consumers in China’s top-tier cities, who are usually the key targets for global fast-fashion players such as H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, Gap, C&A and Forever 21.
The company runs more than 4,600 stores across China and frequently has made it into the top 10 women’s and menswear rankings during the Singles’ Day online shopping festival in the past decade.
The company invested in the Chinese independent designer brand 8on8 earlier this year. Peacebird signed a similar deal with French fashion house Alexis Mabille in 2015, and acquired the China business of the Italian skateboarding brand Coppolella in 2020.
Peacebird has also collaborated with local fashion talents including Susan Fang, Xuzhi, WMWM, Calvin Luo, Garçon by Gçogcn, Nomanoman, Staffonly and Anguis Chiang on various projects to make the brand appeal more to the fashion community.
Ranking from sixth to tenth are Souyute Group, Zhejiang Sunrise Garment, Zhejiang Baoxiniao Garment, Jinhong Fashion Group and Lancy Group. Their 2021 revenues range from 5.1 billion renminbi to 3.6 billion renminbi, or $760 million to $545 million.
The Dongguan-based Souyute Group‘s key brand Celucasn targets third- and fourth-tier cities in China. The group in recent years has also invested in a number of e-commerce-based clothing brands, as well as Lalami, an e-commerce service provider catering to beauty brands.
Zhejiang Sunrise Garment is a leading textile-maker and apparel manufacturer with factories in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Romania, and international clients including Ralph Lauren, Uniqlo and Lacoste.
Zhejiang Baoxiniao Garment, better known by its English name Saint Angelo, is a menswear giant from Wenzhou. The formalwear specialist takes pride in making suits that fit the Chinese body type and claims that it has sold more than 100 million garments in the past 40 years.
With more than 1,600 stores for brands including Saint Angelo, Hazzys, Camicissima and Lafuma in China, the company made its foray into the fashion world with a successful collaboration between Saint Angelo and the Chinese menswear label Pronounce in 2020.
Jinhong Fashion Group, the owner of fashion labels Vgrass and Tennie Weenie, saw revenue increase in 2021 thanks to a solid physical presence across major malls in first-, second- and third-tier cities in China (1,429 stores as of 2021) as well as new online opportunities on Douyin, the Chinese edition of TikTok.
“The company has gradually increased its investment in the Douyin channel and continued to attract traffic through a combination of celebrities and KOLs livestreamings and short videos, which has driven the high growth of the channel,” the company said in its annual report.
Lancy, whose business spans premium women’s fashion, kidswear and aesthetic medicine, also concluded in its annual report that its online business is the fastest-growing part. Gross merchandise volume on Lancy’s Tmall store increased by more than 50 percent in 2021 year-over-year, while transactions during the Singles’ Day shopping festival last year surpassed 100 million renminbi, which ranked number 22 on the women’s fashion ranking.
As of the end of 2021, Lancy operates 638 women’s fashion stores, 547 kidswear stores and 28 beauty clinics in China.