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Sports brand winning consumers' hearts after flood relief donation

By CHEN NAN | China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-26 06:30
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Chinese sportswear company Erke makes a donation of 50 million yuan to provide supplies for flood relief and aid. [Photo/IC]

Henan province has been in the headlines since it was hit with torrential rains that left people dead, missing and impaired.

With donations, supplies and condolences rolling in, Chinese businesses are setting a positive example.

One of them is sportswear company Erke, which donated 50 million yuan ($7.71 million) worth of flood relief supplies and other aid. After Erke announced the move on social media on Wednesday, it received widespread support.

By noon on Saturday, its social media post had about 10 million likes and over 270,000 comments, most of them expressing respect and support for the company.

What made Erke's donation so impressive that it went viral is the gift was a huge sum for the company, considering that its business didn't seem to develop very smoothly over the past few years.

A comment left by a netizen called Baibutao ranked No 1 under the topic. "It feels like you're going out of business, but you donated so much," Baibutao wrote.

"The company has been keeping a low profile. It's certainly a good deed that deserves to be seen by more people," wrote another netizen.

On Thursday evening, Erke's livestreaming channel on Taobao, Alibaba's e-commerce platform, attracted over 2 million people-a big increase from its usually less than 10,000 viewers. The popularity continued on Friday evening, when its livestreaming channel drew over 7.5 million viewers. The statistics also show that within 36 hours, Erke sold over 67 million yuan worth of goods on all of its social media platforms.

According to e-commerce giant, on Thursday and Friday, Chinese sportswear companies' overall sales increased 280 percent year-on-year. Erke saw a 52-fold sales increase on Friday.

"Thanks to you, Erke has made headlines, and we've received lots of warm messages. I want to thank all of you, and let's draw together to help Henan," said Wu Rongzhao, chief executive of Erke, who appeared in the livestreaming channel on Taobao on Friday. "I am deeply touched by your feedback. We will continue to do a good job in bringing out products and services," he also told netizens during the livestreaming to buy rationally.

The company, founded in 2000 and headquartered in Xiamen, Fujian province, has over 7,000 branch companies around the world. Wu said in an early interview that it started from a small factory in Jinjiang, a city known as the "footwear capital", in Fujian.

Wu's father ran a shoemaking business in the 1980s and Wu, along with his elder brother Wu Rongguang, joined the family business after graduating from universities.

However, compared with other Chinese sportswear enterprises, which have attracted lots of consumers, especially among the younger generations, Erke experienced a decline in the market during the past few years.

In 2020, its revenue was 2.8 billion yuan, far behind Chinese sportswear brands like Li-Ning, founded by the similarly named champion gymnast, which had sales of 14.4 billion yuan in 2020, and Anta Sports, founded in 1991, which had 35.5 billion yuan in sales last year.

While praising Erke's strong sense of social responsibility, netizens also called on the company to do more marketing to increase their sales.

One netizen left messages for Wu, giving suggestions on the company's product design and marketing strategy.

"The company's donation to Henan deserves respect. As a consumer, I suggest that your products need simpler designs. For the colors, you can lower the saturation. The quality of the photos of your products also needs to be higher," the netizen wrote.

Wu Rongzhao replied: "What you said is very professional. We used to focus on the quality of the products, hoping to give the consumers better experiences of wearing our products. We will also work hard on the design. We welcome you to join us if you work in this field."

Just after midnight on Sunday morning, Wu posted on Sina Weibo about the company's growth and struggles since it was born two decades ago.

"In 2003, half of our equipment and materials were destroyed by a flood. In 2008, the company went through the global financial crisis. In 2015, a massive fire raged through our factory. Despite all those setbacks, we survived and still believe in bringing out products with craftsmanship," Wu wrote. "It's not true that the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. We've been working hard on changing our marketing strategy and have achieved results.

"It is a total surprise that the company received so much attention from netizens. We are flattered by and grateful for their support. Chinese people are kindhearted and united. We believe in the rise of Chinese enterprises. We can make it," he wrote.

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