Consumer Staples Author: Yingwei Fu, Xiwen Zheng Editor: Zhiqing Chen, Luke Sheehan Jun 04, 2021 07:30 PM (GMT+8)

The company recovered to the pre-pandemic level, but not the same outlook in 2019.

MINISO

Chinese variety brand retailer MINISO has released its Q3 F2021 financial report, indicating the company is back on its feet. In the first quarter of 2021, the company generated total revenue of CNY 2.22 billion, reporting an increase of 45% YoY that was mainly driven by its operations in China (domestic operation). The income is tied to the same period in 2019. The company's operating profit margin and adjusted net profit margin bounced back to pre-pandemic levels during this quarter, indicating that the company has resumed normal business operations. Nevertheless, there are some post-COVID challenges that the company is encountering at the moment.

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COVID-19 hurt MINISO's overseas business

MINISO uses a variety of wholesalers and has similar business models to many of its successful peers in Japan, such as Daiso, CanDo and Seria. While Daiso adopts globalization as the main strategy, its Chinese counterpart MINISO also runs its business worldwide. However, the coronavirus pandemic reduced MINISO's overseas operations drastically.

Comparing the yearly increment of operating stores, the global market put the brakes on expansion. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, MINISO has only added 107 overseas shops, 301 fewer than in the period from Q2 2019 to Q1 2020. On the other hand, it has been steadily expanding its domestic store network.

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Prior to the company's IPO in 2020, MINISO Africa and MINISO Germany were shut down. The Asia-Pacific region remains the primary overseas market alongside small parts from other regions. In response to the pause of overseas business, the company's revenue attributed from non-Chinese markets declined from 32.9% in Q1 2020 to 19.8% in Q1 2021.

The resurgence of the pandemic in South Asia and the slow-down in global economic development influence may continue to shadow MINISO's overseas performance. Given the worsening situation in India and the possible spread to the neighboring countries, the company may see a further shrinking of overseas revenue portions in the coming quarter as a result of a turbulent performance in the Asian market. Meanwhile, Asia, the biggest overseas market of MINISO, contributed more than half of the company's international income in the last quarter.

Quarterly revenue per store fell from a peak of CNY 775,000 in Q3 2019 to CNY 246,000 in the March quarter of 2021, shrunk by over 66%. Considering the seasonality, during the first quarter of 2019, the quarterly revenue per store was CNY 455,000, still nearly twice that of the same period in 2021. To reach pre-pandemic levels, MINISO needs to await the resurrection of the global economy, as well as a sound business environment that will allow the laying of a foundation for enterprises to develop.

Behind MINISO's recovery

While the overseas market has been dipping downwards, the Chinese market nonetheless shows signs of a strong upturn. MINISO quarterly revenue and profit margins reached the pre-pandemic level. Its quarterly revenue per store rose from CNY 432,000 in Q1 2020 to CNY 635,000, but was still CNY 70,000 less than Q1 2019. To ameliorate the losses of the overseas market, MINISO outperformed its original expectation in China's market, appearing as a result of sequential efforts as follows.

Strategy: go online

In the latest quarter, MINISO's domestic e-commerce contributed over 10% of the total revenue, with an 87% growth year-over-year. The pandemic overturned MINISO's strategy and forced it to change. 

In 2017, the Chairman of MINISO, Ye Guofu, commented in public that the company's retail focus should always be on product quality and brand positioning. This focus is a response to the statement of the CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma, who claimed that the combination of online and offline is the core of 'New Retail'. MINISO took e-commerce as a nice-to-have but not a must, which led to only 2% revenue from e-commerce in 2019.

Not until Q3 2020, MINISO spent a year and finally increased e-commerce revenue to 5% of the total revenue. But the company's e-commerce revenue increased from 5% to 10% within six months. The pandemic has shifted many brick-and-mortar business' strategies, including MINISO – it currently is opening an online market that welcomes new synergy to boost the company's performance.

In contrast to decreased in-store traffic, the emergence of online shopping significantly boosted the brand recognition for MINISO in 2020. Besides, the online-to-offline business model redirects traffic to offline stores and benefits the on-site business recovery. Global brand variety stores' online sales were boosted during the past year and the e-commerce performance pushed these companies to further construct their online channels.

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Strategy: TOP TOY, benchmarking POP MART

The 'blind box' toy style has become a strong trend in China. A classic example is POP MART, which went public on HKEX in Q2 2021 with an oversubscription of 350x. Following this trend of toys – blind boxes contain surprise collectibles, usually, figurines – MINISO launched its own art toy brand, TOP TOY, to sell surprise collectibles, blocks and some other types of toys. These art toys are featured by designers with varied intellectual properties (IPs) and the company plans to further invest in self-owned IPs or IP partners.

The move is a derivative from the core brand variety store that focuses on the collective toy markets aiming at the young population. For MINISO, its consumer portrait inspires the company's toy brand, TOP TOY. From MINISO brand store's blind box sales, the shopper's typical user persona overlaps with POP MART's consumer groups: Generation Z, females and white collars.

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The proven popularity of art toys indicates a used-to-be-ignored toy market for adults. Art toys or designer toys are designed for toy buyers to express their personalities. The cultural value and IP story behind those toys differentiate them from traditional toys designed for kids.

Strategy: March in lower-tier cities

The expansion goal for MINISO is to achieve an increment of 500 stores in China by the end of 2021. In the first quarter of 2021, MINISO added 49 stores. 90% of them are located in tier-3-or-below cities. By the end of March, less than 40% of stores were situated in lower-tier cities. The lower-tier city expansion can be the next critical driver of MINISO's domestic revenue growth.

Along with Beijing's 'Rural Vitalization' strategy, the lower-tier cities' development will gain more momentum with leaning resources and favored policies. MINISO's downward expansion can take a ride with these favorable external factors and build wide brand recognition during China's urbanization process.

The COVID setback in the overseas market may still influence MINISO's operation performance further; thereby the company has the incentive to address the domestic market development and wait for the rebounding of overseas growth.

COVID-19 and the 'Lipstick Effect'

Not every retailer resumes as fast as MINISO. The down-run economy intrigues many countries to let loose on monetary circulation and encourage economic V-jump: interest rates were at low levels and governments issued billion-level funds to stimulate the economy. 

Under such a recession background, MINISO's recovery reflects the “Lipstick Effect”, when consumers still spend money on small indulgences during economic downturns. As a Chinese version of a dollar store, MINISO opened a similar ten-yuan concept store to sell affordable products. 

Estimated from the prospectus data, the average transaction was under CNY 45 in the fiscal year 2020. Among tier-1 cities in China, the average monthly disposable income (after-income tax) was more than CNY 5,500 in 2020. The average transaction value per order is less than 1% of the monthly disposable income – MINISO is a value store after all. In a recession, people opt for cost-effective consumption and hence the ten-yuan retailer MINISO can recover to almost a prior-pandemic level quickly.

End note

MINISO's recovery is a positive signal for its shareholders. The company has been benefiting from the 'online + offline' synergy. The expansion to lower-tier cities is a new growth point for the company's domestic operations. Due to the pandemic, the overseas market is growing slowly, but strong domestic growth can compensate for the halted international business. We believe MINISO is on a healthy track and expect it to steadily grow in terms of its brand recognition and the new business initiative TOP TOY.

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