Zhou Shaoxiong was born in 1965, in Quanzhou, Fujian province. He quit his job at a bookstore, considered a “golden rice bowl” at the time, to go into the fabric trade. Initially it was tough: he lacked experience and looked too young to be taken seriously. But after a few years he had saved enough capital to take his business to the next step.
By the time Zhou established his clothing company in 1985, Septwolves Group, he understood the advantage of having a strong brand. A few years later and Septwolves jackets were proving a hit, especially in Shanghai’s high-end department stores. In fact, Septwolves was popular enough to be copied by counterfeiters, something that Zhou turned into an opportunity by launching a crackdown on copycats, which was publicised via a series of high-profile court cases. The media attention greatly increased brand awareness (to see more on Septwolves’ publicity campaigns, see WiC47)
In 2001, Septwolves became one of the biggest players in China’s casual wear industry, with its jackets ranking first in market share terms. It was around this time that Zhou started to enlist the help of celebrities to endorse his clothing – such as Taiwanese singer Chyi Chin.
The next step was for Septwolves to go public: in 2004, the company became the first men’s casual wear company to list in China. The deal valued Zhou’s family stake at Rmb318 million ($48 million). But Zhou insisted that IPO was not for the money, rather that the deal was another avenue by which he could build the Septwolves brand.
As well as opening more conventional stores, a key part of Zhou’s sales plan is to open 20 lifestyle stores in business districts, bringing together men’s clothing, family apparel and household goods under one roof. By the third quarter of last year, net profit was Rmb181 million, up 37% on the same period in 2009. And in a country where online shopping is rapidly growing, internet orders are already an important source of revenue. The company will launch its own e-commerce platform later this year, which should increase online revenue to 10% of the total.
Zhou chose to use ‘wolf’ in the naming of his brand because he believes it epitomises his personality. Wolves persevere and work together to succeed in a hostile world, he believes. The men who wear his clothes, also “resonate with inner belief,” Zhou says.
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