Just a year ago, sports retailer Li Ning seemed down for the count, battling to stem the red ink. This week it released its half year results to June 30: Revenue rose 16 per cent and it has finally returned to profit.
The once beleaguered Chinese sports brand – which peaked in brand awareness about the time of the Beijing Olympics in 2004 – has recovered its mojo: Sales are up, it is expanding its store network once more, all the result of a root and branch review of the whole business, from the way it sources and designs products to the way it operates its stores and how it disposes of end of season stock.
Li Ning has recorded total sales of RMB 3.641 billion – about US$567.5 million. Its profit may have been a modest RMB 260 million (US$40.5 million), but this year both profit and cashflow turned positive. In the same six months last year, Li Ning lost RMB 350 million, or US$54.6 million at today’s exchange rate.
Significantly, the second quarter was a better one for the business than the first. Li Ning says same store sales in retail registered growth in the high teens on a year on year basis. “The entire store network registered low teens year on year growth,” the company said.
As at the end of June, Li Ning had 5745 stores, including flagships, conventional stores, factory outlets and discount stores – 119 more than six months earlier.
During the first half the company “vigorously implemented clearance of obsolete inventory,” optimizing its stock structure to lay a solid foundation for the growth in the second half of the year and into the next.
Li Ning has also approached senior management of nine leading shopping mall groups in China – including Parkson, Bailian, Grandbuy, RT-Mart, Rainbow and Maoye – to discuss partnerships and expansion plans.
“In 2015, we have opportunities for opening over 100 new points of sale and renovating over 30 [more] in the premises of these groups,” the company said in its trading results overview.