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How Did Bosideng Become the King of Down Coats?

In China, people use Bosideng to refer to down coats. Let's talk about this.

If you’ve ever tried to find a cheaper down jacket than Canada Goose or Moncler, you’ve come across Bosideng.

Founded in 1976, this Chinese clothing brand focuses on producing winter clothing. In fact, Bosideng has been synonymous with down jackets in the Chinese market for a long time.

After China fully adopted the market economy, many foreign brands beat out the domestic brands of China, yet they have never won the game in the down jacket market.

Now that Bosideng is expanding overseas, let’s talk about it and its founder.

Gao Dekang, the founder of Bosideng.

Gao Dekang, the founder of Bosideng, was born in 1952 in Changshu, Jiangsu Province, one of the most developed cities in Jiangsu Province. Born in a family of tailors, Gao has been interested in making clothes since he was very young. He feels that making clothes with his own hands is a very fulfilling thing.

In 1976, at the age of 24, Gao felt he had perfected his tailoring skills, so he left his master. During that year, he formed a company with 11 other farmers. They started their business with eight old sewing machines.

Changshu is close to Shanghai, China’s most developed city, so Gao targeted the city from the start. Their company had entered into a partnership with an enterprise in Shanghai, mainly to provide processing services for the enterprise.

The factory purchased raw materials from Shanghai, transfered to Changshu for processing, and then transported the clothes back to Shanghai. Their only transportation was a bulky bicycle. Gao often left home before dawn, without time to eat.

Such hard work in return for the rich income, after several years of accumulation, in 1980, Gao Dekang established sShanjing Village garment factory, the predecessor of Bosideng.

In 1984, Gao’s garment factory stopped processing supplied materials and began producing branded goods for some clothing brands. Because of their high quality and high output, they were getting more and more orders. And their customers were mainly down clothing brands. It gave Gao the idea to found his onw brand.

In 1990, after the factory doubled its output again, Gao registered the trademark “Bosideng”. The name was inspired by Boston. Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, is located in the northeastern part of the United States, where the weather is relatively cold.Down jackets are what cold places need most.

Incidentally, at that time, it was very popular for Chinese brands to have a homophonic English name.

But Bosideng’s development has not been plain sailing.

In 1994, Bosideng had more than 20 million yuan ($3.09 million) worth of unsalable down coats in its warehouses, and owed banks more than 8 million yuan ($1.239 million).

In 1994, there was few concept of marketing in the Chinese market, but Gao Dekang had already figured out a good way to dispose of the inventory. He teamed up with Wangfujing, a well-known Beijing department store, to promote down jackets in the summer. Such out-of-season sales were not common in Chinese at the time, as consumers went crazy for discounts and buy all the unsalable down jackets in two months.

But discounting hurted the company’s sales after all, which made Gao thought for the first time about what needed to change about down coats as a “product.”

They did something unthinkable in the Chinese market at the time — they tried to incorporate fashion elements into down jackets.

The word “fashion” was synonymous with “decadence” for a long time before China fully embraced the market economy in 1992. As a result, consumerst in China at that time were almost only cared about the quality, not the appearance.

Especially when it came to down jackets, most people thought that it was just must-wear clothes in winter. The appearance was always bloated and ugly.

Gao Dekang led the design team to carry out a new design of down jacket. The new design of down jacket is more beautiful and lighter. In the winter of 1995, Bosideng exploded the market with its new down jacket and became the king of down coats in China.

After that, Bosideng almost became the synonymous with down jacket in China for a long time.

Jack Ma, a well-known Chinese businessman, wore a dark green Canada Goose down jacket when he met with then-US President Donald Trump in January of 2017 and attended the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen in December of the same yaer. Photos of the two events were widely circulated in the media, making Canada Goose quickly popular in the Chinese market.

According to statistics, in February 2017, searching for “Canada Goose” on Weibo could return more than 70,000 original tweets. Bosideng, by contrast, could only received 800 results.

This made Gao felt the crisis again.

Sure enough, Canada Goose’s first retail store in mainland China opened in Beijing on December 28, 2018. For a long time after opening, customers had to queue to get into the store, and some styles and sizes remained out of stock. That winter, thousands of young Chinese queued in the cold to buy a Canada Goose down coat at a high price.

This made Gao Dekang realized that the brand was aging, which meant that Bosideng was too old for young Chinese consumers to choose.

By reviewing the previous stragtegy, Bosideng began its second transformation.

“Bosideng used to have a deep accumulation, but what we have now was only a high profile,” said Rui Jinsong, senior vice president of Bosideng. “In the past few years, people felt as if the brand was

disappearing.”

After refocusing on the down jacket business, Gao Dekang, who was born in 19050s, and his wife, Mei Dong, executive director and president of Bosideng, who was born in 1960s, have been making frequent appearances at brand events.

“There was dust on the desk in my office at that time,” He said in an interview, adding that he would set aside time to go out every quarter to find good designs and understand what consumers really wanted.

Bosideng’s transformation worked in 2019.

In addition to appearing at New York fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week, Bosideng has also been releasing joint collections with international designers on a continuous basis. Former LV and Balenciaga designer Antonin Tron, former Ralph Lauren design director Tim Coppens, designers Ennio Capasa, who studied under Yohji Yamamoto, and former Hermes design director Jean Gaultier were all involved.

In line with the current trend, Bosideng also invited Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Renner, Wendi Deng and other international stars as its advertising endorser, invited Yang Mi, Li Yuchun and other domestic stars to attend its joint launch.

As an old brand over 40, Bosideng even got a new Logo. This is the second time it changed its Loogo since it was founded in 1975 — the first time was in 2012.

According to the official data, in the sales of Bosideng on November 11, 2019, the young customer group aged 18-34 increased by 51% year-on-year, and the sales of products of which unit price is higher than 1800 yuan increased by 140% year-on-year.

On October 30, 2019, Bosideng launched a high-end series of down jackets called “Dengfeng”, with the lowest price ranging from 5,800 yuan to the highest price ranging of 11,800 yuan (about $1,828). Why is it so expensive? Bosideng’s argument is that the line is 43 years old. “Extreme warmth, fearless of extreme environments, professional protection” — the brand claims to redefine the professional down jacket.

However, Bosideng’s best seller is still its low-priced line. Bosideng launched the high-priced down jacket to prove its brand strength, but it did not forget that as a Chinese clothing brand, its most important market positioning is to sell high-quality products at the lowest price.

According to the company’s financial statement, the average selling price of its down jackets was 750 yuan (about 116 yuan) in 2018 and 1,500 yuan (about 232 dollars) in 2019. Even though the average price has doubled, it’s still much lower than Canada Goose.

On the other hand, Bosideng also began to pay attention to overseas markets early. Bosideng made its first overseas sale in 1999, selling its own down jackets to Russia. Over the next 20 years, it opened stores in 72 countries, including the United States, France and Italy. Bosideng has sold 200 million down jackets outside China, according to officials.

Since 2018, Bosideng has partnered with Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, to sell its own down coats through AliExpress, an e-commerce site owned by Alibaba. In addition, they began to use Aliyun to transform their business.

The online sales partnership with Alibaba allows Bosideng to better understand consumer needs and translate those needs into clothing improvements.

So back to our usual routine, if you’re wondering if Bosideng is a credible brand. I think it’s believable. It’s not just any clothing brand in China that may suddenly disappear. Born before China’s reform and opening-up, it has a history of 41 years and is still innovating today. Although its brands still don’t look as cool as Moncler or Canada Goose, however, if you only want a low price and good quality down jacket, Bosideng is definitely one of your options.

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