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Chinese firm Miniso apologises for Japanese branding after outcry

A Chinese retail company has apologised for styling itself as a Japanese store, saying it made “serious mistakes”.

Miniso, which sells homeware and electronics, used a logo and branding that appeared similar to that of the Japanese clothing firm Uniqlo. It has been under criticism from Chinese consumers who believed it was not supporting its Chinese roots.

Miniso Group Holding is not known to have claimed to be a Japanese company. However, in a statement last week it apologised for its global branding strategy, launched in 2015 when it was led by a Japanese designer, which appeared to present the firm as a “Japanese designer brand”. As of December 2021 there were more than 5,000 Miniso stores around the world.

The marketing strategy was successful enough that news of the furore prompted many to remark that they were surprised that the brand was in fact Chinese.

The wave of criticism seems to have begun in July, when Miniso’s Spanish branch posted photographs on Instagram of Disney Princess toys dressed in Chinese cheongsam, but mislabeled them as Japanese geisha dolls. The error prompted thousands of negative social media engagements, and editorials in Chinese media that said such mistakes were not allowable. The company’s stock price fell by more than 37%.

The controversy escalated as critics complained about the brand appearing Japanese.

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Chinese nationalism and anti-Japanese sentiment has been growing in China, particularly on social media, with criticism often centring on perceived slights via pop culture.

Miniso’s apology was not enough for many, while others said they would continue to support the shop as long as it “corrected the mistake”.

“The domestic brand has changed, and the overseas brand should change faster,” said one.

“I [hope] that with the wave of national rejuvenation, more enterprises will quickly self-examine and have more awareness of similar problems and, after upgrading and improving, become China’s business card to the world,” said another.

The company said it had been working to remove Japanese elements from its Chinese stores since 2019. Changes would also be made to overseas stores, it said, and control over social media posts would be centralised in its Chinese headquarters. Unnamed executives would be punished internally.

“Miniso is a Chinese company from beginning to end, and it wants to be an upright Chinese brand,” the statement said. “Thanks to the media and the public for their supervision and encouragement.”

Additional reporting by Xiaoqian Zhu

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