March 31st began at 5:15 AM for the students as we checked out from the Peninsula Hotel in Beijing. We grabbed our five star boxed breakfasts and headed to the train station with our fearless leader Julia Potter. It was interesting to note the beauty of the train station as it was built in 2008, and was yet another structure for the world to see for the Olympic Games in Beijing. As we traveled south on the bullet train at speeds over 300 km, we saw China’s “country side” accompanied with clusters of high rise buildings in the background. In the Li & Fung presentation later in the day, it was noted that one of their challenges within the company is a labor shortage in the big cities. The fresh construction we saw passing through the countryside on the bullet train further supports the growth that is occurring outside the metropolitan cities. On our way to the Li & Fung Shanghai Campus, our tour guide Mac shared that Shanghai is the “New York in China” and their Financial Center is coincidentally referred to as Manhattan.
Upon arrival at the Li & Fung Shanghai Campus, a Cantonese style lunch was served recognizing the Fung brothers’ Cantonese heritage. After lunch, we heard from Joseph Huo, the General Manager of Finance and Accounting for LF. Mr. Huo highlighted the challenges that LF is facing in the sourcing world. First, the concern of cost of labor and materials will continue. They are also concerned with labor shifts in Southern China and the coastal cities. This shift is from an increased demand for white collar workers. Factories are moving inland as supported from what we saw in the countryside of China on the bullet train. There is also a concern of power shortages in Chinese factories. The students witnessed this energy consciousness after dinner tonight when the light show of Shanghai skyline was shut off after 8:30 PM.
After Joseph Huo’s presentation, we were introduced to part of Kohl’s exclusive merchant team at the LF office. Their dedication to Kohl’s and their quality standards was clearly evident. They really strive to interpret each product to fit the quality and price standard that the Kohl’s customer expects. After the LF Kohl’s team presentation, the students toured the campus and product showrooms.
Due to Shanghai traffic, the students had the opportunity to see the vibrant, sensory overload city with countless photos of gleaming and unique skyscrapers. The young, fashion forward citizens were very easy to spot throughout the city.