Textile giant Semir Group leverages its Balabala brand to conquer new markets

Mondodo Town, Semir Group, Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province

Semir Group has strong international ambitions for Balabala, China’s largest specialty children’s apparel retailer. It does not skimp on the means to extend its brand territory and build customer loyalty.

Last March, Semir Group (森马 集团) made the news by acquiring the group Kidiliz (ex Zannier). Qiu Guanghe, chairman of the Semir group, has just given an interview to Zhejiang Online, an information site from China’s Eastern coastal province, where Semir Group is based.

According to the article, the Kidiliz group buy-out is in line with the objectives of the Semir Group’s five-year plan. « By 2023, the Semir Group’s plan is to achieve CNY 80 billion (US$ 11.5 billion) of industrial production, and to attain this ambitious goal, the role of the children’s apparel industry engine is needed », says Qiu Guanghe.

Many articles have already been written, in the Chinese or Western press, about China’s kidswear industry boom, even before the one-child policy abolition in 2015. « In recent years, children’s fashion has become a must-have in China », affirms US news website Jing Daily.

« The young children’s apparel market is already one of the fastest growing categories in China. It is currently estimated at US $ 24 billion and is forecasted to double by 2025 », says Jane Elfers, CEO of US children’s specialty apparel retailer The Children’s Place, who signed last March an exclusive license agreement with Semir Group for the Greater China market. The Zhejiang Online article states that in 2018 first three quarters, Semir Group recorded growth in sales and net income of 21.4% and 25.7% respectively.

Balabala starts with Hong Kong

According to Jing Daily, « research by Euromonitor indicates that China’s kidswear industry is still underdeveloped, with the market penetration rate of the top 10 brands at 12.2 percent. Balabala, a brand owned by Semir, has just a five percent penetration rate, while its other brands are lower than one percent. »

But Semir Group does not limit Balabala, its main brand for children, to the Chinese market. « To conquer overseas markets, Semir Group starts with Balabala », announces Zhejiang Online. Four months ago, the brand was officially established in Hong Kong, with two store openings in Olympian City and Plaza Hollywood shopping centers.

Within three years, balabala plans to open 20 to 30 stores in the city. « Hong Kong is not only a huge consumer market, but also a key strategic hub for the Semir Group internationalization », says Qiu Guanghe.

Children’s Village and International School

After Kidiliz Group (Catimini, Petit Bateau, IKKS …) acquisition, « Semir Group holds a diversified and rich portfolio of children’s clothing brands, Zhejiang Online continues. It has significantly improved its access and operational capacity in major European and Asian markets, as well as other international markets, and is leading a global supply chain that allows to accelerate its internationalization. »

However, Semir Group intends to involve its own brand in its export development. And Zhejiang Online tells how the group does not hesitate to leave its brand territory to retain customer. Located in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, the Mondodo Town (梦多多小镇, pictured above, © Baidu 百度百科) was built by Semir Group, with an investment of CNY 200 million (US$ 29 million).

The place, bringing together Semir Group’s entire offer for adults and children, has become a leisure and consumption center for Wenzhou residents. Like Cai Tianqiang, a 35-year-old resident who goes to Mondodo Town every week with his son. « There are lots of projects, outdoor experiences, shopping, entertainment, etc. », Cai explains to Zhejiang Online.

Not far away, the 30-year-old has enrolled his son in the Shanghai United International School Wenzhou (森马协和国际学校), entirely built and financed by Semir Group. « Consumer confidence, affection and dependence are the added value of our brands », warns Qiu Guanghe.