And Finally

Victorian values

Maoren’s not so secretive strategy to emulate the US lingerie giant

Hsu: Maoren’s am-bra-ssador

Move over, Victoria’s Secret. Maoren wants to be China’s largest lingerie retailer.

The mainland undergarment maker, which means “Cat People” in Chinese, is planning to grow from 10 to 1,000 retail stores across the country in the next five years.

“Maoren’s strategy is to build China’s version of Victoria’s Secret. We hope that in the next five to 10 years we will have over a thousand sexy lingerie stores across the country,” says the company’s chairman, You Lin.

You’s ambitions are understandable. Lingerie is big business: China’s undergarment market is reckoned to be worth Rmb200 billion ($29.29 billion) this year, says the 21CN Business Herald. And in a country with 367 million women aged 15-49 – according to statistics from the United Nations – that represents a significant market of potential customers.

While lacy bras that retail for Rmb600 remain out of reach for most of the female population, they are increasingly popular among a growing number of young, middle class women.

“It’s expensive, but I think every woman has at least one set of pretty underwear,” Audrey Ma told the New York Times. She’s editorial director of Madame Figaro, one of China’s leading fashion magazines. “Today’s young women think that if the outside is pretty, the inside should be pretty, too,“ she adds.

That is a big departure from a generation ago, when lingerie was taboo in China. Most women wore modest outfits and plain undergarments because the Communist ideals encouraged men and women to dress alike, as equals. Advertising of lingerie was also banned in the mainland up until the mid-1990s.

Maoren’s story seems to follow that of the country. The company initially made its name producing inexpensive and not-so-sexy undergarments like thermal underwear and long johns. But over time, profits were thin. Inspired by the success of Victoria’s Secret, in 2007 Maoren decided to shift the focus to ornate lingerie. Today, like the US lingerie giant, Maoren stores also sell apparel, make-up and perfume.

To put a little oomph into its advertising, the company hired Taiwanese actress Dee Hsu (younger sister of Barbie Hsu, see WiC41) to star in its latest TV commercials. In the thirty-second ad, a tarted-up and scantily-clad Hsu is seen performing a pole dance. The caption: “So Hot and Sexy.”

But is it too hot for CCTV to handle? The state-run broadcaster has banned the commercial from being broadcast on its stations. Nevertheless, viewers can still catch the star in action on cable and online.


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