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On The Scene: Li-Ning jumps stateside

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On the Scene
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Li-Ning is already a phenomenal sportswear presence overseas, with almost $1 billion in annual revenue and more than 7,000 stores in China. The Beijing-based retailer has grown a great deal since it was founded 20 years ago, and now Li-Ning is ready to expand its presence and step onto the North American court. Its home city of choice? Portland, naturally.

Li-Ning USA unveiled its first American showroom this week with a grand opening ceremony at its Pearl District location. With sports apparel and equipment – everything from badminton racquets to tennis shirts – lining the shelves, the two-story showroom was officially open for business. Waiters catered to the packed house with champagne and hors d'oeuvres, a DJ kept the energy level high and I even stumbled upon Portland Mayor Sam Adams putting up a rather good fight in a game of ping-pong. Needless to say, it was an extravagant party, and celebration was certainly in order.


The company was founded by – and named after – Olympic gymnast Li-Ning, who won three gold medals in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Since its launch in 1990, the company has become one of China’s leading sportswear brands, moving beyond its local retail success to sponsor NBA athletes including Shaquille O’Neal and Baron Davis. Li-Ning’s business relationship with Davis eventually evolved to the development of his own basketball shoe brand, following in the footsteps of some of his NBA peers. The showroom’s grand opening this week served as the kickoff of the shoe – dubbed the BD Doom – and Davis himself was in attendance to oversee its launch. “Right now I’m pretty overwhelmed,” Davis said. “I just thank Li-Ning for having the wherewithal and the guts to come to the United States and know that there is room for more [brands], there is room for improvement.”

Also on board for the shoe’s release is Champs Sports, the Foot Locker brand’s second-largest component retailer. It was announced during the evening’s ribbon-cutting ceremony that Champs is teaming up with Li-Ning to distribute Davis' shoe, along with selected Li-Ning apparel and footwear, to over 50 malls on the West Coast by this August – just in time for the back-to-school shopping season.

It’s all good news for Portland, and it’s bound to get better as the 23-employee showroom finds its place among Portlanders. But why the Rose City? General manager Jay Li narrowed it down to one fact: This town knows footwear. “Portland, as you know, is the epicenter of athletic footwear,” Li said. “It is a great testing route for us to introduce the brand and ease into our international presence with the requisite resources.”


And as a little brand called Nike proved, humble Portland roots can go a long way, and Adams was optimistic over that prospect. “Thank you for your trust in Portland,” Adams told the company. “We’re just thrilled that you have chosen your foothold in North America to begin here, and from your base in Portland, we want you to take over North America.”

Kevin Manahan is the online editor for Oregon Business.



0 #1 Say it ain't somoleary 2010-02-17 17:11:18
First our country sends most of its manufacturing to China and the Far East. Now we're opening our doors to Chinese retailers. It would be one thing if the Chinese government operated on a level playing field, but as an Oregon wholesaler I can tell you it ain't so. I for one will not be patronizing this establishment. Besides, since when did the Chinese become harbingers of style?
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Maggie Rauch
0 #2 Not so fastMaggie Rauch 2010-02-18 08:52:23
As a Beijing-based American who very closely follows the Chinese sports and business worlds, I don't think that LiNing has a real shot at the US market. In fact, I'm skeptical as to their commitment to the market--I see it as more likely an attempt to appear to Chinese consumers to be a global brand.

I explain myself at length here.
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0 #3 be open to the world, you can win the worldDALA 2010-02-19 17:06:33
If you really go to their store, you will see tons of tees are designed and even made in the USA. be open, guys.
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The Real Thing
0 #4 Don't be a hating racist...Li-Nin g is the real thing.The Real Thing 2010-02-22 11:47:08
I am disppointed in moleary's comment.

Li Ning the man is a winner and a class act. He built his company from the ground up. Li-Ning's stuffs are well maded and well designed.

As for the US market, it will take time but eventually Li-Ning will be a force in the US.

BTW, it is not China that is torturing suspects (or more likely, people sold to the CIA). Are we forgetting whites immigrants' genocide against the Native Americans???
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Ken H
0 #5 China Will Own us SOONKen H 2010-03-02 12:12:07
I think it is time we take care of ourself. Maybe get back to simple times. USA MADE..... come on country. Smarten Up.
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