Zhou Jianping was born in Xinqiao, a small town in Jiangsu province, in 1961. His first job was at the town’s cultural centre, before he opened his own photo studio.
After making a little money, Zhou took over Xinqiao No.3 Textile Factory, a small state firm which then had 18 employees. He focused on producing coarse ‘carded’ yarn. By 1990 No.3 Textile was seeing strong sales and Zhou moved into combed yarn (higher quality, and with greater strength), which required a Rmb10 million investment in new machinery (a formidable sum given company assets were only Rmb3 million). The period between 1991 to 1993 was a tough one, with the company surviving on selling older products in its inventory, as it struggled to develop its new yarn. But by 1994 suits were getting more popular in China and demand for combed yarn was rising. No.3 Textile was one of the few companies which could produce materials for suitmakers. By the end of 1994, sales had accelerated to Rmb100 million.
Zhou then transformed himself into a suit maker. His first business wear brand was Sancanal and in 1998 he launched another, AutaSon. He even opened an AutaSon store on the Champs-Élysées, and began producing in France. In another creative move he opened Hailan Home, a supermarket-style chain for suits, in Tianjin in 2002. By 2011, there were 2,000 Hailan Home stores nationwide, with group revenues hitting Rmb35 billion.
Suits you, sir
The headquarters of Hailan Group is still in the town of Xiaoqiao, where visitors will be surprised to see Roman-style arches, pillars and statues. It’s no coincidence. After Zhou had visited Italy he decided to knock down some of his older plant, and construct a European park with hotels and a business centre. It attracted 300,000 tourists in its first year, earning annual revenues of Rmb30 million.
Zhou’s Hailan Group also owns the biggest equestrian club in China (horseriding is one of his hobbies). Thus far, the club has purchased 230 horses from around the world, bringing in international trainers to help it develop a 90-person dressage team, large enough for an entry in the the Guinness Book of World Records this year.
In the news
Hailan Group made headlines this month when its IPO application was rejected by the CSRC. It’s not clear why the listing was denied, but in the current market conditions it may be that a delay ends up being the best outcome for Zhou.
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