City's time-honored brands a dying breed

Updated: 2015-03-13 13:00

By Wang Ying in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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Chunghwa is a brand of pencil that many generations of Chinese have used to practice writing Chinese characters for the first time. But when it is exported overseas, it is labeled differently so that it appears to be a non-Chinese brand.

Many famous local brands either were, or still are, hard to find, including Hongdeng (Red Lantern) radios, local watches and the Butterfly sewing machine.

When overseas Chinese were allowed to return to the mainland in the early 1980s, they went directly to those brands out of a sense of nostalgia.

Many bought embroidered shoes from Xiaohuayuan (Little Garden), overcoats from Hongxiang, and Ningbo-style glutinous-rice dumplings from Meixin.

Sadly, most of the brands only remain as memories.

A survey conducted by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences shows that only about 10 percent of Shanghai's time-honored brands are still making a profit. The rest are struggling or have shut down.

The more than 2,000 time-honored brands across the nation show a similar pattern, according to a research report from Beijing Technology and Business University.

About 27 percent of old local brands fall into the food category. A further 13.9 percent specialize in dining and restaurants, while 14.4 percent produce clothing, shoes, hats and other apparel.

Of the total, 12.8 percent are linked to sports-related industries, 11.1 percent fall under the service industry umbrella, 10 percent are tied to hardware, electrical appliances or accessories, and 5.56 percent relate to medicine, according to the Shanghai Brand Development Report.

But many have fallen by the wayside after failing to compete with state-of-the-art technologies and international brands.

As a result, municipal authorities launched a campaign to rejuvenate interest in, and sales of, these old brands by providing capital support and favorable policies to certain companies, according to Shao Yuling, secretary-general of the Shanghai Time-Honored Brand Association.

The city's 222 time-honored brands generated revenue of 162.5 billion yuan ($25.9 billion) and profit of 2.05 billion yuan in 2013, figures from the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce show.

Some 44 percent are State-owned and 42 percent are shareholding enterprises.