Minnie Wang
Jun 7, 2021

'No sale': Patagonia defies shopping festival fervour in China

'Buy less, demand more', the outdoor brand has proclaimed, in a contrarian tactic that has drawn attention amid the frantic discounting of the country's June ecommerce festival.

Alibaba Tmall & Taobao mobile apps
Alibaba Tmall & Taobao mobile apps

The Chinese mid-year shopping festival, which was once a one-day event on June 18, kicked off in late May, with Alibaba (Tmall and Taobao), JD.com, and Pinduoduo all hyping a month-long ecommerce extravaganza. Even Kuaishou, a short-video sharing platform, joined in, holding its 616 shopping festival.

According to Alibaba, about 250,000 brands are showcasing themselves in Tmall's 6.18 sales this year, 2.5 times last year's total. A whopping 13 million products are on the shelves during the period, 1.4 million of which are new. In addition, more than 29,000 overseas brands from 87 markets are participating in the Tmall shopping festival, with nearly 2,000 overseas brands and nearly 400,000 newly imported products joining for the first time.

According JD, sales on the first day surged more than seven times year-on-year.

But amid a bombardment of sales advertisements from various apps, many Chinese consumers also received a surprising message on Patagonia China's official WeChat account. "NO SALE," the headline read, followed by a tagline worthy of Jerry Maguire: 'Buy less, demand more'. 

Megan Han, from Patagonia China's marketing department, said that the brand "began a series of consumer education programs in China since last year," upholding Patagonia's mission to reduce consumerism. "We are just making a statement under the flood of the huge shopping festival," she said. 

It's not the first time the brand has sent out a message about reducing consumption. Last year, Patagonia chose 12 December, the end of the year shopping festival, to present its first consumer education exhibition in China, and collaborated with the Old Good Store at the In Art We Live showroom at the K11 shopping mall in Shanghai. 

In January, Patagonia opened a new store in the same mall. The pairing of K11 and Patagonia seems fitting since K11 parent company New World Development Hong Kong is also well-known for green branding. A number of fashion brands, labeled as the second-most polluting industry by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2019, have embraced K11's greener shopping space. 

Patagonia China consumer education event

As much as they talk about carbon neutrality, very few brands have gone so far as to say, 'Don't buy.' But a decade ago, Patagonia's 'Don't buy this jacket' campaign, launched with a full-page New York Times ad during the Black Friday season, earned the company a label of "sustainability." In the next two years, its annual sales grew by almost 40%. 

In China, Patagonia is quickly moving forward by opening another store in Shanghai in May and sharing its brand philosophy "Every Patagonia store is the local gift to the local community."

When Wolff Olins and Hall & Partners published an inaugural list of China's 100 most conscious brands in May, Patagonia came in third place, behind Huawei and Microsoft.

The list, based on criteria such as 'makes the world better', 'embraces diversity', and 'drives reform,' aims to help increase consumer demand for brands to act more responsibly. In the global ranking of the 100 most conscious brands, Patagonia ranked came in as No. 1 among global fashion brands.  

"Luxury fashion brands do well in China and less well in the US and UK," Vanella Jackson, global CEO of Hall & Partners, told Campaign China. "This sector is waking up to the need to become more conscious and sustainable, with the major luxury brands pioneering the way, using innovative production and recycling techniques."

With its consistent brand philosophy, Patagonia is categorising itself not as a fashion brand but as an outdoor brand with a distinct voice in a competitive market.

Campaign China

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