MINISO (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Míngchuàng Yōupǐn) is a Chinese[1] retailer and variety store chain that specializes in household and consumer goods including cosmetics, stationery, toys, and kitchenware.[3] Its headquarters are in Liwan District, Guangzhou[4][5] under its Chinese holding company Aiyaya.[6] In 2016, the company's sales revenue reached $1.5 billion.[7] In March 2019, MINISO began a collaboration with Marvel Entertainment to sell its branded products.[8]

MINISO
Native name
名创优品
Company typePublic
NYSEMNSO
SEHK9896
IndustryVariety store
Founded2011; 13 years ago (2011)
Founders
Headquarters,
China
Number of locations
5,514 (March 31, 2023)
Area served
Worldwide
RevenueIncrease US$1.582 billion[2] (FY2023)
Websiteminiso.com
Former logo, used when MINISO was operating exclusively in Asia.

MINISO has expanded outside of the Chinese market and operates 4,200 stores in Asia, Europe, Oceania, Africa, North America, and South America.[9]

History

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MINISO was founded in 2013 by Ye Guofu, a Chinese entrepreneur and later a billionaire.[1][10] MINISO's first pilot store opened in China (Guangzhou) in 2013 near its factory, then Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia before opening several stores in Sydney, Australia.[11] The company was co-founded by Japanese designer Miyake Junya who met Ye Guofu in 2013 through a friend’s introduction according to himself.[12][13][14][15] The company initially employed a Japanese-influenced branding strategy, despite operating in Mainland China under Chinese company Aiyaya with no outlets in Japan.[16] MINISO’s first overseas store was opened in Singapore in 2015, two years since its debut in Guangzhou.[17] MINISO has since expanded outside of China and opened over 6,000 stores worldwide.[18]

In January 2017, MINISO announced that they were seeking to enter the North Korean market, opening their first store in Pyongyang four months later. According to The Economist, the store was popular among the country's wealthy but only accepted foreign currency, including the U.S. Dollar, Chinese Yuan, and Euro as payment.[7] Soon after opening, the company's Japanese branch came under pressure for violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321 prohibiting trade with North Korea, distanced themselves from the move, and blamed the Chinese offices for the decision.[19] As a result of the controversy, MINISO promised not to ship any more products to North Korea and the Pyongyang store was rebranded as "Evolution".[20][21]

On December 18, 2018, MINISO filed for bankruptcy in Canada.[22]

In August 2022 MINISO apologized for "wrong brand positioning and marketing", admitting that the company was a "proud Chinese-Australian brand through and through", and said it would decrease Japanese inspired products (including their katakana logo, which read in Japanese is actually "MEISO") by March 2023.[23][24]

In 2023, MINISO rebranded for the first time, changing the font on the logo. Their stores have been revamped, now displayed in a pink color scheme instead of white, removing most Japanese references, and are much larger in size for more products.

Sometime in May 2024, MINISO ceased to exist in the Republic of Ireland.

On May 30, 2024, MINISO went into administration in Australia.[25]

Global expansion

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A Miniso store in Nanjing, China. The storefront logo features the company's name in English and Traditional Chinese (名創優品), and (now no longer used) Japanese katakana (メイソウ)
 
Miniso storefront located in the Macroplaza shopping mall in Tijuana, Mexico.

MINISO first established a retail presence in China, and the majority of its stores still operate there. Even so, it has pursued an aggressive expansion plan in countries connected with China's One Belt One Road economic policy, alongside other similar international retailers like Mumuso,[26][27][28] XIMIVOGUE,[29][30] YOYOSO,[31][32][33] USUPSO[34][35] and LÄTT LIV,[36][37] with shopping malls sometimes having several rival stores.[38] It first began expanding in Asia: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Nepal, Macau, India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, South Korea, North Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand and Bangladesh.[7][9] Sales in one store in Vietnam on its opening day exceeded $10,000 in one hour.[39] MINISO's store in Pyongyang was the first and only foreign-branded chain store in North Korea.[7] It arrived in Australia in early 2017.[40]

On 27 May 2016, MINISO opened its first store in Seacon Square Srinakarin, Bangkok Operating under the name of MiniSo (Thailand) Company Limited which Singtai Trading Company Limited is the sole importer. Currently, in Thailand, MINISO has a total of 52 branches nationwide.[41]

In North America, MINISO currently operates several stores in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.[42][43] On August 6, 2016, MINISO signed a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation Agreement with an American partner to expand its retail operations to the United States.[44] The first U.S. store opened in Pasadena in April 2017.[45]

In Central America, MINISO opened its first store in Panama. They had opened 4 stores by October 2018. They also started operations in Costa Rica in 2019 where there are currently 10 stores.[46]

In South America, MINISO opened its first retail store in Brazil in August 2017, its second in Chile in December 2017, with plans to enter nearby Argentina soon.[47] In May 2018, its first retail store in Peru was opened at Jockey Plaza Shopping Center. In Colombia it started operations with a double opening of two stores on August 30 in the city of Bogotá, by December 2018 they plan to open the first 15 stores in the country.

In Europe, MINISO operate retail outlets in Spain, Germany, Italy, Estonia, Serbia,[48] Armenia[49] and Russia, among others.[9]

In Africa, MINISO first entered Morocco in early 2017 with 15 stores in multiple cities around the kingdom, South Africa in August 2017[50] and West Africa in Nigeria one month later.[51] There are also stores in Kenya and in Kampala, Uganda.[52][53][54] As of January 2018, MINISO operated two stores in Egypt.

On August 1, 2018, MINISO opened the 1st store in Kuwait in the Avenues Mall Phase 4 (The Forum). On September 25, 2019, the 2nd store was opened in The Avenues Mall Phase 1. On March 3, 2021, the 3rd store was opened in Marina Mall. On July 7, 2022, the 4th store was opened in Souq Sharq Mall.

On September 1, 2018, MINISO opened two stores in Romania and plans to open 40 more stores nationwide.[55] MINISO has opened more than 70 franchises in Pakistan during past three years.[56] On January 12, 2018, MINISO opened its first store in Bangladesh, with 27 stores currently.[57][58]

In June 2019, MINISO announced it would open 6 more stores in Israel bringing the total to 18 by the end of the year.[59]

On 8 November 2019, MINISO opened its first store in the United Kingdom in Ealing, a west London suburb.[60] They then proceeded to open 24 more, as of December 2023; including their central London flagship store in Oxford Street on 10 November 2023, as well as a 'MINI MINISO' concept store in Shaftesbury Avenue on 29 September 2023.[61] Store locations in the UK include (but are not limited to): London, Cardiff, Belfast, Craigavon, Brighton, Leeds, Oxford, Nottingham, Birmingham, Manchester, Reading, Basingstoke and Cambridge. They are planning to open more high profile stores in 2024.

As of January 2020, MINISO had over 3,500 stores in 79 countries, with an approximate revenue of US$2.4 billion in 2019.[11]

In May 2021, MINISO opened its first store in Porto, Portugal and they also announced that they would open more than 20 stores all over the country.[62]

As of August 2021, MINISO had 4 stores in Oman, with 3 located in the capital Muscat and 1 store in Sohar.[63][64][65][66][67]

In may 2023, MINISO opened its first flagship store in Times Square, New York City.[68]

Intellectual property concerns

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Copycat controversy

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Since its opening, MINISO has focused on "Japanese style." Its logo, store image, and products are similar to those of UNIQLO, MUJI, and Daiso, and even caused controversy over plagiarism due to being too similar. Their business methods are also known as "cottage-style" business methods.[6][13][69][70][71]

Commentators have expressed varying opinions regarding the criticism of MINISO for allegedly copying other products.

Laura Wen-Yu Young, a managing partner at San Francisco-brd law firm Wang and Wang believes that there are no restrictions on creating a brand that simply sounds Japanese or Korean. She ultimately thinks that it will be up to the customers to decide whether such businesses "will succeed or fail based on normal market principle".[72]

Simon Collins, founder of Fashion Culture Design Unconference and former Dean of Parsons School of Design,suggest that the criticism MINISO has been facing doesn't stand to a certain extent. He does not think that "Muji or Uniqlo represent Japanese cultural brand", given that they are "100% international".[73]

MINISO allegedly started to remove Japanese elements from its stores and shopping bags in late 2019 across its 3,100 shops in China.[74] MINISO’s "de-Japanisation" process has allegedly been completed in March 2023.[75]

False labeling

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MINISO also has problems such as inconsistent company address marking, fictitious address marking, and unnatural Japanese generated by using Baidu translation on the website. According to Hong Kong-based online news portal HK01, traditionally perceived as pro-democracy and anti-Beijing, MINISO’s official website claims that a team of famous Nordic designers designed its products. However, the media contacted these Nordic designers across the ocean. More than half of the design units claimed that they did not cooperate with MINISO and even said there was no such thing as being "joined" by the design team. Unbeknownst to them, some designers pointed out that the website stole the pictures they designed, and some designers asked MINISO to remove their names after learning about the incident, but they were ignored.[76][failed verification]

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Several products of MINISO were also accused of infringing copyrights rather than authorizing the use of characters designed by different cartoonists and illustrators. In mainland China, MINISO and its trademark owner Saiman Investment have been involved in many intellectual property infringement lawsuits, most of which ended with MINISO compensation.

The commodity director of MINISO said that their products are similar to other famous brands because they are the original factory of the favorite brand products, so the similar appearance is reasonable.[77][78][79]

Finances

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According to reports, the address, chairman, founder, and investment fund of Fenlibao, a P2P online lending platform, are all the same, and there are reports that the platform was established to support MINISO. However, after the Fenlibao platform collected funds from individual investors, MINISO guaranteed it, and then loaned to MINISO’s franchisees at an annual interest rate as high as 18%, and the franchisees were asked to pay MINISO Chuangyoupin, this financing method has been questioned to transfer operating risks to franchisees to conduct "self-financing" (self-financing) behaviors that violate mainland Chinese laws and regulations, and is also suspected of violating regulations that prohibit providing "self-guarantees" to lenders. Its individual financing amount is also suspected of exceeding the upper limit. However, MINISO replied that its "industry-finance integration model" is not self-financing, and believes that doubters do not understand the operating nature of its P2P financing. At the same time, according to the official announcement, the main assets of Fenlibao, an online loan investment docking platform, come from MINISO, and investors can get an annual interest rate of 6-11%, which is relatively "stable." This financing method allows MINISO to "transfuse blood" for franchisees and circulate assets internally to realize its business empire.[80][81]

Marketing

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While Miniso is a company from China, the company has stated that its products tend to reflect Japanese design which they attributed to having a lead designer from Japan.[1] Miniso's marketing strategy has been compared to Japanese retailers such as Muji and Uniqlo due to similarities in both store aesthetics, brand design, and inventory.[82][83] Because of its Japanese-influenced branding strategy, the company's products have been criticized as "made in China to look Japanese",[6][84] particularly when most of the company's stores are located in China, where people trust Japanese brands more than domestic offerings.[3] It has also been criticized for affixing grammatically incorrect Japanese-language labels to many products, a consequence of using Baidu Translate to produce Japanese language copy, as admitted by Miniso's management.[3][16]

Nevertheless, because of Miniso's success in expanding its number of retail stores, AllianceBernstein, a global asset management company, called its market strategy a success by "filling a price-point niche left unaddressed by the Japanese formats it was imitating".[16]

IP collaborations, word-of-mouth, celebrity endorsements and the ability to launch viral products is at the basis of Miniso's success in China.[85]

References

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