Alternatives & Evaluations
Rick Wang, the managing director of RetailCo. Inc., the master franchisee for the Athlete's Foot in China, was an American born Chinese, who began his career as an account director at Lintas, an international advertising agency. In 1992, he moved to Shanghai where he became the Vice President of marketing for Shanghai Fuller Foods Ltd. By 1997, Shanghai Fuller Foods Ltd was sold to Nestle and Wang decided to leave the company and strike it out on his own. With the advice from an American friend at Nike, Rick Wang became acquainted with the athletic footwear industry. Wang entered the retail and franchise business by establishing RetailCo Inc, a company established with the intention of managing the retail realities of the athletics footwear sales in China. In 1998, RetailCo Inc opened its first sports and retail store under the US franchise The Athlete's Foot. Early success with the franchise saw rapid growth and included the expansion of stores to other regions in China. RetailCo Inc became one of the first and biggest sports retailers in China, and they were responsible for the athletic specialty stores of Nike, Adidas and Reebok. In fact, RetailCo became the largest Adidas retailer in China. Wang achieved success at a time when the franchise concept in the Chinese market was new and innovative and the sports market was underdeveloped. Twenty two days after the first store in East China was opened, Wang started an expansion strategy and 40 corporate stores were opened in seven other Chinese cities. The company began to make a profit but by 2001 the company began to experience major problems. Situation Analysis
Franchising seems to be an attractive mode of entry for global companies that wish to anchor their brand in China without taking much risk. The history of franchising in the Chinese market began in the 1990s with the emergence of KFC and McDonalds. Over the years they worked cautiously and soon aggressively they expanded throughout China. As a result China's franchising market began to develop. Market competition in China was less rigorous than it was in the United States. The athletic footwear industry in China had a few players in the mid 1990s. The demand for high-quality athletic footwear increased as consumers incomes increased. A market research showed that in 1998 one person in Shanghai owned only one pair of athletic shoes but by 2005 they had an average of three pairs of athletic shoes. China's retail market is characterized by discounts as well as intense competition between domestic and foreign brands. RetailCo Inc became the leading branded sports retailer in China. China's retail market is growing fast. There are a number of retail stores and brands but the number of quality locations and brands remain very limited. The retail industry in China began to undergo a drastic transformation with all the new regulations on retailing and franchising in China for global companies. Many companies are affected, however, RetailCo Inc is not one of those companies affected because they are a registered Chinese company. Rick Wang had not followed the entrepreneurial path of franchising and stuck it out on his own with problematic results. After realizing that RetailCo Inc sales volume were decreasing, Wang decided to get expert advice and began to educate himself on the internet where he discovered that the industry leader was the American company: The Athlete's Foot, Inc. Wang's research led him to contact the Athlete's Foot Inc. He believed that by contacting the company he would be able to get some pointers as an experienced retailer. He flew to the company's headquarters in Atlanta and evaluated the company and its teams. He became very impressed with their inventory control system. When Wang returned to China, he immediately started his franchise and retail plan....
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