It’s easy for people to mistake Miniso for an authentic Japanese brand.
The discount retailer has made its mark all over the world, branding itself as a Japanese brand with more than 5,100 stores from the capital city of North Korea to Broadway Avenue in New York. It has boldly copied the look and feel of the casual-wear chain Uniqlo. The products they sell are less expensive imitations of homeware designer brand Muji. Their logo also features Japanese Katakana characters that are known as Meisou.
Miniso is De-Japanizing
However, Miniso is a “proud Chinese brand through and through,” the company said in the last week as it apologized for appearing to be a Japanese brand and thus damaging the sentiments of Chinese customers.
The company’s New York-listed marketing strategy has come in for criticism, caused outrage amid political tensions between Tokyo, and caused a wave of anti-Japanese sentiments in China. In a statement posted on the popular Chinese social network Weibo, Miniso said it regrets advertising its brand in the form of “a Japanese designer brand” at the beginning of its growth and described it as “an incorrect direction.”
The company, located in Guangdong, a south Chinese town, has been “de-Japanizing” since 2019 and will take out any aspect that references Japan on its marketing materials as storefronts before March next year.
The company’s management has pledged to hold the top management accountable for the “severe error.” Miniso also vowed to “export the right Chinese values and culture.”
The announcement came after Miniso Spain caused some backlash in the United States in the middle of this month when Miniso Spain mistakenly described Disney Princesses in Chinese Cheongsams from an upcoming toy collection in the form of Japanese geisha. The Chinese company then apologized and asked their agent in Spain to end the agency responsible for running the company’s social media channels. “We appreciate the long-standing historical civilization and the amazing accomplishments in the arts and culture of China,” Miniso Spain posted in an Instagram post.
While Miniso opened its first retail boutique located in Guangzhou at the end of 2013, as a majority of its merchandise is manufactured in China, Miniso consistently claimed to be the product of a Japanese brand for the first several years of its existence and referred to its presence of Japanese designer Miyake Junya as co-founder.
“It is hilarious that the strategic partnership and impressive performances from Miniso in China have been a shadow over Miniso’s operations in Japan,” Junya said in 2016. At the time, Miniso had more than 1,000 stores in China; however, just four outlets were in Japan. Junya hoped to spread the Japanese design philosophy to others across the globe. In 2019, as the company was preparing for an IPO within the U.S., all mentions of Junya and its Japanese origins were gone from its website and documents, such as its IPO prospectus that listed Chinese businessman Ye Guofu as its only founder.
Miniso was involved in 68 lawsuits the same year, including more than 40 lawsuits involving copyright violations. In 2016 the Hong Kong outlet reported that several famous Nordic designers had been included on the Miniso website without their permission. At the very least, two Hong Kong artists have also claimed that Miniso has ripped off their logo.
Source: VICE World News
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