Despite all his contentious campaign rhetoric, Chinese retail has embraced Donald Trump in a big way.
Take the Trump-rooster statue just erected at a shopping mall in Taiyuan, the capital city of China’s Shanxi province, for example. The enormous effigy — to celebrate 2017, the Chinese Year of the Rooster — stands 32 feet tall, complete with the president-elect’s unmistakable quiff and hand gestures. In fact, Chinese retailers incorporate Trump’s “look” or name into their products frequently, including caricatured figurines, skincare items, condoms, and more.
“This is the first time we’ve had a president who is a brand, and it’s not unusual to see various markets try to co-opt brands for their own success,” said Greg Portell, lead partner for consumer industries and retail practice at global consulting firm A.T. Kearney. “But China, in particular, is trying to capitalize on the Trump brand.”
Without hard data, it’s unclear whether Chinese consumers have bought into the push. But retailers are betting they will.
Halloween was a good indication. The Jinua Partytime Latex Art and Crafts Factory, among others, started churning out masks of then-candidate Trump. While the company also produced other political masks, including one depicting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, workers stockpiled Trump’s, expecting them to sell out in 2016, as Reuters reported.
Now, just weeks before Trump’s inauguration, multiple Chinese retailers have started selling scaled-down versions of that gigantic rooster statue, including Taobao, a large e-commerce site owned by Alibaba. And of course, Alibaba hasn’t missed out on the Trump trend either, offering a multitude of bobbleheads as well as Trump’s iconic red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps — although Amazon, the U.S. equivalent, sells its fair share of paraphernalia too.
“If you go back to what retailers are looking for in general, they’re looking to drive traffic and drive conversation. Selling products is almost secondary,” Portell noted. “In China, they’re achieving all the above.”
But China’s Trumpmania isn’t entirely new. In the past decade, Trump has filed 126 trademark applications in China for products from pet care to lingerie, according to data from the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, reported by the Washington Post. And the president-elect wouldn’t be filing them if they didn’t make him money.
But his next battle lies in fighting off other people trying to use his brand. Registered trademarks already exist in China for Trump condoms, paint, and even toilets.
“It is just a psychological effect,” Zhong Jiye, founder of Shenzhen Trump Industrial Co., told the Washington Post. “They are interested because they want to sit on a toilet or use a urinal that has the name of a U.S. president.”