The success of wine retailer Cheers in China can teach us important lessons on how to build a successful business: seize the opportunities and have a broader view by eyeing the whole of China, have a clear target and mission, do honest business by forging a close relationship with clients and be persistent, and offer competitive prices while building up a smart team.
The success of Swiss entrepreneur Claudia Masueger is a case in point. She told me her adventure in China started when she decided to learn to love lucky numbers as the Chinese do, because "while in China, do as the Chinese do".
As eight－sounding similar to fa (making a fortune) in Chinese－is such an auspicious one, she landed in Beijing on Jan 8, 2008.
While here, she traveled and thought about how to develop her own competitive edge: With four generations of wine business experience in her family and a good relationship with the worldwide wine business, she made a decision－to start a wine business in China and try her best, as the wine business in China was fast growing at the time.
Masueger opened her first store in Beijing in April 2011 and became CEO of Cheers Stores, with an aim to target the young Chinese aged between 22 and 35, and earning between 3,000 yuan ($435) and 20,000 yuan a month on average.
Over the past six years, I've witnessed her company's rise as the brand leader in the wine retail chain stores－winning all the Best of Wine and Franchise Star Awards in Beijing－and selling imported quality wines at the best possible prices to clients.
Now with over 200,000 customers and 42 stores in 14 cities covering all major parts of China, she intends to open a further 67 franchise stores in 2017.
Currently, her business covers the northeast (with stores in Shenyang, Qiqihar, Dalian), the north (with stores in Beijing, Datong and Taiyuan), central China (with stores in Zhengzhou and Guiyang), the east (with stores in Shanghai, Hangzhou), the northwest (with stores in Xining, Lanzhou), the southwest (with stores in Chengdu) and the south (with stores in Zhuhai and Shenzhen).
"I think our Cheers brand is different from others, as it has a clear purpose－Cheers makes wine drinking fun and affordable, and has a brand promise－Cheers makes you smile," she told me, adding that her secret is doing honest business with customers.
Mike McConnell from Ohio in the US, now a teacher at Beijing No 4 High School, told me he prefers different varieties of wine from different places, and that's why he has frequented Cheers stores many times to fine many types of wines available at affordable prices.
Masueger is optimistic about the outlook for her business: "China's wine market has a bright future. As Chinese consumers' spending power is increasing, I think wine and liquor consumption in the Asia-Pacific region will surpass Europe to rank No 1 in the world after 2016, and 75 percent of them will come from China. The future world wine center will be China.".
Hans Li, a loyal customer, said: "I think Cheers' most prominent feature is it is trustworthy and has a good relationship with its customers. In a Cheers store, you can enjoy the friendly atmosphere and the good service in addition to affordable wines."
With such booming business and with new investor Movenpick, Masueger is confident. "My end goal is clear: To have 888 stores in China and start internationalizing Cheers soon to other countries."