I’ve worked for NIKE for over 25 years and all within the U.S. I’ve traveled to the big cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. I’ve traveled to the small college towns of East Lansing, Stillwater and Pullman. It has always been important to know your business, know the markets where you sell and most important, know who’s buying your stuff. So this week when I set out to do my first travel in China I did a bit of research. Let me share some interesting facts with you. By the way, my facts are from wikipedia so if you disagree, feel free to change them.
China and the U.S. are roughly the same size – The U.S. is 3.8 million square miles and China is 3.7. The population is where we really separate. The U.S. 317 million, China 1.4 billion. The largest city in the U.S. is New York, the largest in China is Shanghai. The population of the four major markets in China look like this – Shanghai 22 million, Beijing (the capital, by the way) 20 million, Guangzhou, 12 million and Hong Kong, just over 7 million.
It was a real eye opener for me as I started out on travel, visiting cities where we focus our business. Traveling to one market that is larger in population than that of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut combined is impressive to say the least.
I’ve been making my way around Shanghai and visiting different stores where NIKE is sold but was really moved one morning as I happened upon one NIKE store while out for a run. I first saw the NIKE ad on the side of the building and then saw the big orange swoosh. I’m super proud to say I work for NIKE, I grew up with it. I’m always moved when I see the swoosh around the world knowing that it all started in my backyard – my hometown. And nothing was more moving than seeing it ahead of me on the streets of Shanghai.
As I approached the front of the store, I was met by a swarm of people waiting to get in. The line, started at the door and worked its way around the corner and down the block. I had to know what was happening, it’s my business, right? Not caring that I was sweating, wearing a tank and running tights with many people staring at me like I was a freak show, I jumped up on a cement wall and starting snapping photos with my phone. I made my way up to the front door and asked security what the line was for, “Air Jordan 4” he said with confidence. I loved it.
My travel outside of Shanghai started with checking in at the airlines of China Eastern. Not to be confused with China Southern, China Air or Air China. I had to check my itinerary 3 times to make sure I went to the right counter for check in. Apparently, no need for any of that fancy branding work to differentiate the airline industry of China. I flew China Eastern from Shanghai to Beijing. Beijing is north of Shanghai, about a 2 hour flight so I was curious why not China Northern?
Beijing is a great city. It’s clean and seems very organized, I think it’s a government thing. We visited retail and saw where and how NIKE looked in the capital city. It was just as impressive. After a day of meetings, the NIKE crew went to dinner at a newly opened restaurant called Da Dong. There are lots of comments I could make here but let’s make this an interactive thing – I’ll give you a minute to enjoy your favorite Da Dong joke. Finished? Good. Both Beijing and Da Dong are famous for their roast duck.The food was delicious. I had sea urchin served in an ice bowl, lobster pasta, duck (sorry UofO fans) and fried fish.
From Beijing we traveled to Guangzhou on China Southern airlines, which makes sense to me as it is south of Beijing and south of Shanghai. We arrived just in time to see a running club that meets once a week outside of the NIKE Guangzhou store for a 5k.
The runners were mostly in their 20s, they met outside the store for warm-ups and with music blasting it was more like a party than a run. Something to know, these young people did not grow up playing sports. There are no organized sports in the China school system. If you’re pegged as an athlete, it is done at a young age and you are sent to a specialized school to develop your skills.
For these young runners, running was a required test for school – a pass or fail and they hated it. But now, It’s a choice that they’ve embraced as a way to get healthy, have fun and meet people. I loved their energy.
After my week of travels and realizing I most likely will not get to meet all of the 1.4 billion people of Greater China, I was energized by the differences in the cities I visited and the cities where I will go to next.