Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Step Away from Adidas: Adisco Shoes in China

Business is getting better in China for sports brands such as Nike and Adidas. But as Bruce Einhorn reported in Bloomberg, not all sports brands are happy:
The sports boom has yet to pay off for some of China's home-grown brands. Competition from Adidas, Nike and other foreign brands is hurting many of them, with order growth falling from high double-digits last year to low-to-mid double digits in early 2016, according to a Fitch Ratings report published on June 3. Fitch expects “smaller domestic manufacturers' margins to come under pressure in the next five years due to increasing competition, their limited pricing flexibility to distributors and rising labor costs.”
In response, some Chinese sports brands are "looking for foreign assistance". I saw one potentially relevant example in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, although I don't think it is what Einhorn had in mind.

Before highlighting the notable shoe store, I will first share a photo of a different shoe store in Taiyuan. Its sign features Adidas, Nike, and New Balance:

One could ask whether the store in Taiyuan sells genuine Adidas, Nike, and New Balance shoes. I did not ask this question. Instead, I took the photo simply because I wanted a recent example of the Adidas three bar logo. So simple. So recognizable.

Now, here is a shoe store I saw in another shopping district in Taiyuan which has arguably received some foreign assistance:

Adisco store in Taiyuan, Shanxi, Cina

As I assume most readers immediately noticed, Adisco's logo, indicated as registered, is rather similar to the Adidas three bar logo. One difference is that two of the bars are subtly divided into smaller sections.

Adisco's shoes display a similar approach. Many feature a three stripe design Adidas fans would quickly recognize. Two of the stripes are subtly divided into smaller sections, though.

Adisco shoes for sale in Taiyuan

A shiny golden certificate in the store declares that Adisco is a "China Shoes Apparel Industry Well Known Brand".

Gold plaque proclaiming Adisco is a "China Shoes Apparel Industry Well Known Brand"

The certificate lists an official website for inquiries: I have yet to find anything functional at that address, so I have not able to inquire about their standards. But the certificate's shininess is undeniable.

Also undeniable is that the store was using a Nike shoebox.

Monitor sitting on top of a Nike shoe box at an Adisco store in Taiyuan

It seemed like an odd choice. Perhaps they were going for a "we're crushing Nike" message.

Although there may be little doubt about Adisco's source of inspiration, I don't know if Adidas has challenged them or how Chinese courts would rule. There are many relevant factors to consider, and the results of trademark disputes can be surprising. One of Adidas's competitors which appears on the first store's sign has run into much bigger trademark problems. More about that later.


  1. Now the shop has a banner that reads "reject fake goods, stay away from piracy". What irony!

    1. Wow, it does appear to be the same store. Fascinating.