SHANGHAI — Riding the wave of soccer’s increasing popularity with Chinese fans, Premier League club Liverpool F.C. has launched a flagship store on JD.com’s cross-border platform, JD Worldwide.
The store went live Tuesday and was marked by an event in Shanghai attended by Liverpool legends Vladimir Smicer and Patrik Berger. JD.com claims it is the first e-store of its kind for a U.K. football club in China and will offer a range of authentic merchandise, including club shirts, men’s and women’s apparel, fashion and sports accessories, and personalized souvenirs.
China’s love for soccer, and particularly European leagues, has escalated in recent years, with President Xi Jinping outing himself in 2014 as a massive fan of the round ball code and a report from the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily newspaper last October putting the number of Chinese regularly watching Premier League games at 350 million — a sum greater than the entire U.S. population.
According to Liverpool F.C.’s director of marketing Mike Cox, research suggests his club has 28 million mainland Chinese fans. The e-commerce space in China is dominated by major platforms so this was the most sensible way to approach Chinese expansion, he said.
“As we expand more internationally, marketplaces have become more important and JD.com are one of the key places in the market and have an interest in sport generally,” he said. “Sometimes you just get a feeling that the time is right to do something. We’ve been talking about what to do in the Chinese market for the past 12 to 18 months and we believe it’s the right choice one for us given everything else that’s going on in China around football.”
Cross-border e-commerce has been a major focus in the Chinese e-commerce sphere over the past 12 months, with JD.com opening its JD Worldwide platform just over a year ago. Deputy general manager of JD Worldwide Louis Li said that for international brands, the platform offers a relatively affordable and straightforward way to access the 170 million-strong user base of JD.com.
“From JD’s perspective, because typically our customer profile is middle class, relatively wealthy and exposed to foreign products, there is this huge demand,” Li said, adding that authenticity and trust are paramount in the mind of the consumers using JD.com’s various platforms.
“In China’s e-commerce industry, unfortunately there are a lot of counterfeit products, so for consumers it’s really hard to tell which channel they can use to buy authentic products. By working with Liverpool very closely, fans know that when they buy on this Liverpool flagship store, they are getting the real thing for sure,” Li said.