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Challenge Awards China successfully launched

Last week saw the launch of the Challenge Awards in Shanghai (China). After months of preparation between China, America and Europa, the big day finally arrived – a pivotal moment in Caracter Company China’s history!

It all began in August at a big press conference in Shanghai with PLSC (the Chinese PLMA partner) to announce our cooperation and our initiative and ended last week with a magnificent Challenge Awards ceremony held during the 3-day PLSC trade show. Retailers and suppliers throughout China were very keen to participate.

I am particularly proud of the part played by the Chinese government and the Commercial University of Shanghai in making this such a success. They clearly recognize it’s important for retail development in China. It reminded me of the successful Challenge Awards back home in the Netherlands. The Chinese PLMA really surpassed themselves as they organized the Private Label Fair this year for the 8th time and this year even added a special Challenge Awards Lounge. A place dedicated to top level education and information.


First Challenge Awards

The PLSC Challenge Awards aim to promote the development of private labels and category management in China. It was obvious at the show how much the awards are appreciated by retailers and suppliers.

Although the awards were new to Chinese retailers, we still received plenty of entries. Mind you, I’m talking about offline retail here, which is running behind Europe with approx. 10 years. But this is totally the opposite from the online retail area where the Chinese are really much further and also making big strides in direction of the integration of both. I was asked to chair the international jury, where I was joined by Mrs Carin van Leeuwen (Jumbo Supermarkten), Mr Gerard Koning (Coop Supermarkten) and Mr Brian Sharoff (PLMA USA).

Carin van Leeuwen and I delivered presentations sharing our retail and category management experience with our Chinese colleagues. This is quite a challenge, working with translators and with everyone else looking at their phones, walking in and out and taking pictures. However, after a while you don’t notice, as it would only make you nervous. We were questioned on everything, and as things here are in the early stages, we had to explain everything from a basic level, e.g. what do we actually mean by ‘formula strategy’ or ‘category management’ and issues like ‘assortment build up’.


And the winners are

The importance of having international experts on the panel is huge for China. By combining international panelists with the national jury, retail experience and knowledge can be shared and brought to bear on the judgements of entries. After much discussion and several voting rounds, I was ready to announce the results.

First of all, Walmart was elected as Most Popular Retailer. For the other prize categories, we appointed each time three or four winners. The prizes for Format Strategy went to Rainbow, Walmart and G-Holly. The ones for Category Development to AEON, Greatfamily and Rainbow.

The prizes for Packaging Design were for Rainbow, Guan Yuan, First Food Chain and Lian Hua. The Shopper Activation prizes were for Ugrant Commercial Chain, Guan Park and Quik. And the prizes for Innovation went to Greatfamily, AEON, Lian Hua and San Jiang. Finally, the winners for Sustainable Product: Cui Qu, Rainbow and San Jiang.

Challenge Awards 2018

The level of enthusiasm for the 2017 Challenge Awards was huge and we are already receiving confirmations from Chinese retailers who wish to participate in 2018. We plan to expand the professional jury, and together with PLSC, Caracter will develop training products for category management and retailing for both C-level and Mid-level management. For this, I will create a new team of international retailers during the coming months. Everyone can join us on a trip to China. I am looking forward to working with colleagues on this as we plan our next Chinese retail event.


Looking at the high number of entries, which all showed a high level of professionalism and quality, you can say without a doubt that there is a healthy future for Chinese retailers in private label development. Whilst current market share percentages are just around 5% (with sometimes 20%), private labels are, just like in Europe, the perfect tool for retailers to create shopper loyalty and preference.

In my opinion, the challenges for China lie working systematically to create strategy and integration. Currently, there is too much ad-hoc and trial-and-error approach. What you see today is that private labels need to create a clearer distinction versus brands with a strong proposition. Both in design, packaging and pricing. On top of that, retailers with private in various categories will have to start presenting them as series.

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