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Wrangler Launches in China Through Digital Partnership with Tmall

The global pandemic led Kontoor Brands to delay its initial plans to launch Wrangler in China earlier this year, but the day has finally come for the heritage brand.

Kontoor announced Thursday that it has expanded Wrangler’s international reach to China by taking a digital-first approach. The initial product offering is available for consumers through Alibaba Group’s Tmall e-commerce site.

Since becoming an independent, publicly traded company in May last year, Kontoor has identified China as a key area of focus for its international expansion strategy. The company’s other heritage brand, Lee, has been in the region for 25 years, according to Bloomberg.

Last fall, Kontoor Brands president and CEO Scott Baxter said Wrangler’s debut in China was on track for Q1 2020. The launch, however, was postponed shortly after Covid-19 began to spread around the world. At the time, Baxter pinpointed Fall 2020 as a time “we can more effectively optimize our go-to market strategies, our interactive consumer engagement and better leverage our demand creation spent.”

“One of Kontoor’s core strategic priorities includes expanding to new markets and geographies. Launching our iconic Wrangler brand in China, one of the fastest growing consumer markets in the world, is a key step toward that effort,” Baxter said. “As part of Kontoor Brands, the Wrangler brand is leveraging the collective experience that helped establish Lee as one of the leading denim brands in the Chinese market. This announcement marks an exciting milestone in the brand’s 70-plus year history.”

Wrangler celebrated the launch with an activation at Innersect, a multi-day consumer streetwear event in Shanghai. The event choice is indicative of where Kontoor sees opportunity for Wrangler in China: among tech and pop-culture-savvy young consumers.

“We’ve reimagined the adventurous optimism of Wrangler’s cowboy spirit for the Chinese market, developing a brand platform designed to resonate with China’s youth and young at heart,” said John Gearing, Kontoor Asia Pacific vice president and general manager.

Kontoor plans to expand the product selection in Spring 2021 and launch additional consumer activations.

“We are building awareness and demand for the brand through our initial digital product offerings,” Gearing added. “In the coming months, we will accelerate our focus on creating engaging and innovative experiences designed to introduce Wrangler’s best-in-class apparel products to the Chinese consumer.”