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Partnering With Chinese Govt Works Fine For New York Fashion Information Supplier

Updated: 2012-8-10 Source: ctei

    Partnering with government-backed entities in China doesn¡¯t work for every foreign company in China. Yet for one U.S. small business from New York, it¡¯s creating good results.
    Style Sight, a New York-based fashion information provider with more than 3,000 customers worldwide, last December hooked up with the China Textile Information Center under the government-run China National Textile Apparel Council to obtain information and sales support in its relatively fast-growing market.
    The move has helped to expanded Style Sight¡¯s customers in the country to a total of 350 in the past half year, says Style Sight¡¯s founder and CEO Franklin Bober. ¡°We have just scratched the surface¡± in the country, he said in a recent interview in Hong Kong.
    His partner is ¡°doing great,¡± Bober enthused. ¡° I mean not only good, they are doing just great. I¡¯m very happy that I have partnered.¡°
    China¡¯s market can be a tough nut to crack form small and medium-sized companies from abroad owing to problems ranging from piracy and distribution bottlenecks to technology theft.
    Bober set up Style Sight in 2003 after four-decade-long career in which he worked as a sales executive at Polo Ralph Lauren and Arthur Richards. He went to found his own private label outsourcing outfit CMT in 1989, and sold in it 2000.
    Restless, he set up Style Sight three years later as an online provider about fashion trends globally. Today the company employs about 200 people and counts Polo Ralph Lauren, VF and Amazon among its U.S. customer; in Asia, his clients include relatively young Chinese brands such as Li Ning and Metersbonwe, the latter being led by Chinese billionaire Zhou Chengjian. Total sales this year will reach  about $30 million, Bober says.
    Bober hasn¡¯t always been so successful in China. Style Sight originally set up its own offices in 2007, but found it was getting knocked off by pirates.  Style Sight won a counterfeiting lawsuit but still was losing money by the end of the decade. That led him to close Style Sight¡¯s offices and go into partnership with the China Textile Information Council, last December about 11 months of talks, he said.
    Through the partnership, Bober can obtain a large amount of information about China to the world. ¡°There¡¯s also tremendous amount of government statistics and the information they have that we¡¯re going to start to bring that intelligence out in a way that is digestible for our world, our group of clients,¡± he says.
    Bober says he doesn¡¯t mind talking about his success because the experience he has put in the country is a barrier to entry. ¡°People say to me behind my back, ¡®Everyone can do it.¡¯ Well, I say to them, ¡®Well, do it. Be my guest.¡¯  I¡¯m not worried about that .¡±
    A key to his success with local customers in the mainland is translations that resonate with locals. ¡° I¡¯ll give you an example:  how would you translate ¡°wild West¡± as a trend? Navaho?¡±
    He originally worked with a translation company, and that lasted less than a month. ¡°We realized that these people didn¡¯t know about the styles that we want, and the values that we bring to our clients,¡± he said. So his company uses its own teams in the mainland and New York.
    With China already a major player in global textile manufacturing, he sees a bright future for the country¡¯s designers, too. ¡°I feel very confident that the level of creativity in the country is just at its beginning,¡± he said.
    ¡°We are very much positioned to be helpful in this, because as you know, they love technology, they love the internet and they embrace it. If there¡¯s ever a place where there¡¯s an opportunity for Style Sight, it is China.¡±
    For Hu Song, a vice president of the China Textile Information Center, working with Style Sight has also been a success so far.  The company¡¯s information will help build the competitiveness of China¡¯s designers, and business generated from serving those customers with access to Style Sight¡¯s services is also good, Hu said.
    To Chinese customers worried about the current global economic slowdown, Bober advises: ¡°stay on course.¡± To foreigners looking to get into China, he advises the same. ¡°People that don¡¯t have patience are not going to make it in China. Business need to build trust, just like we did. It took me eleven months to make this deal (with Hu). It wasn¡¯t just, ¡®Hey let¡¯s make deal, we¡¯re Style Sight!¡¯
    ¡°You need to get into the country with very little expectations, you need to observe, and you need to learn about dealings within China, including the government and the interaction with the government,¡± he said. ¡° You need to experience it, and you need to invest in it.  There¡¯s no easy road.¡±
    Bober recalls one businessman offering him the notion that Chinese customers were going to have to play ¡°by our rules¡± in the country. ¡°I kind of leaned forward and said, ¡®Yeah, what are they?¡¯ And Bober then said: ¡®There are no rules.¡¯¡±
    For now for Style Sight, an approach of working with a government partner is working out just fine.