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In 2008, Chinese entrepreneur Dong Lu had several epiphanies at once. One was that women in China, particularly young women, were becoming if not more overtly sexual, definitely more openly sexy, risqué and revealing in terms of their choice of dress.
Another was that China lacked lingerie brands with sex appeal. Existing brands were either too conservative or too kinky for professional women in their 20s and 30s.
The third “aha moment” was that e-commerce was on the verge of exploding on the mainland and that there was no single dominant player focusing exclusively on lingerie.
From this confluence emerged La Miu, China’s largest online shopping platform for lingerie. Similar to Victoria’s Secret, La Miu sells its own branded products, which, according to Dong, a cofounder, are heavily influenced by Japanese style.
“We are not selling bras. We are selling a sexy feeling — the sexy aspiration to young women who want to be different,” Dong said. “Most Chinese companies are just selling products. We are selling a feeling. This concept is very new in China.”
Most of the products sell in the $15 to $20 range, although there are some items that are just a few dollars. Overall, the merchandise is somewhat pricey, but accessible for the middle class.
La Miu currently has more than 1 million customers and sales have been growing 200 to 300 percent every year since the site was launched, Dong said. It has raised about $30 million in investment capital and is now starting to expand its presence offline with stores in Beijing and Shanghai. Dong said the company has been approached by foreign lingerie brands and hopes to forge some partnerships in the near future to sell lingerie from international players.
“Young people in China are really bold,” he said. “We are targeting those people. It is a free world right now for them. A lot of young girls wear red or purple or black bras under a white shirt. They say, ‘What is the point of wearing a beautiful bra if nobody knows about it?’”