| BEIJING, July 3
BEIJING, July 3 The Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade
visited China on Wednesday for the first time since signing a
multi-million dollar contract with Chinese sportswear company Li
Ning last year, but the sneakers that bear his name
are in short supply.
Chinese stores are slowly being re-stocked with the "Way of
Wade" shoes, but they won't be widely available on U.S. markets
for some time.
With hundreds of fans cheering at a promotional event in
Beijing, the six foot-four inch tall Wade chest-thumped the
diminutive Chinese host on stage and towered over Olympic
gymnast Li Ning, the founder of the company that bears his name.
"Li Ning is what I believe in, it's my style," the NBA
superstar said, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his face and
the signature gold and black Wade sneakers.
But Li Ning has left customers on both sides of the Pacific
wanting for the Wade shoes, unable even to profit from the Heat
being crowned NBA champions last month. Wade's teammate LeBron
James's Nike sneakers recorded the highest U.S. sales of
any NBA player last year, drawing $300 million.
It's not known how many pairs of Wade sneakers have been
made and sold so far but it's only in the region of a few
thousand. Most basketball fans scouring stores and the Internet
for the shoes outside China are coming up empty-handed.
In China, some stores have been given stocks since the
beginning of the month.
Li Ning, backed by Singapore sovereign fund GIC and
U.S. private equity firm TPG Capital, lured Wade from
rival Nike last year in a sponsorship deal worth an estimated
$100 million over 10 years.
The company is cagey about its strategy and divulged no
details of manufacturing capacity or projected sales for the
"Making revenue with this was a secondary consideration for
us," executive vice chairman Jin-Goon Kim told reporters.
"We're trying very hard to increase capacity," he said,
citing the limited number of factories that can manufacture
"One of the things that really made it more difficult to
scale up is Wade is so meticulous. These shoes are really
complicated," said Kim.
The company, which is refocusing efforts on China after
posting a $318.8 million loss last year, is struggling even on
its home turf, with few resources to spare for other markets.
But it may be getting its act together. Besides the start of
the re-stocking, the NBA superstar will visit Shanghai and
Guangdong to promote the shoes.
However, overseas markets, including the United States, will
come only later.
"We have to first serve our Chinese consumers because there
is so much demand here that we cannot fulfill," said Kim.
Franklin Yao, managing partner of Shanghai-based strategy
consulting firm SmithStreetSolutions, said the sneakers were
aimed at the Chinese market since there was no distribution in
the United States and the shoes were only available in specialty
websites or on e-bay.
"They are obviously missing out on potential sales in the
U.S., given the buzz that the shoes have generated, but building
out U.S. distribution may not be as quick as the opportunity to
sign Dwyane Wade was," Yao said.
"The U.S. market itself is just not a focus for Li Ning
right now - China is," said James Roy, senior analyst at
Shanghai-based China Market Research.
"They don't have any stores in the U.S. and their e-commerce
presence has been shut down. This is almost completely about the
Chinese market," Roy said.