Friday, 22 March 2024

Baozun (BZUN) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

by BD Banks

Baozun (BZUN) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Image source: The Motley Fool.

Q4 2023 Earnings Call
Mar 21, 2024, 7:30 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for standing by for Baozun’s fourth quarter and fiscal year 2023 earnings conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After management’s prepared remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. As a reminder, today’s conference call is being recorded.

I will now turn the meeting over to your host for today’s call, Ms. Wendy Sun, senior director of corporate development and investor relations for Baozun. Please proceed, Wendy.

Wendy SunSenior Director, Corporate Development and Investor Relations

Thank you, operator. Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. Our fourth quarter and fiscal year 2023 earnings release was distributed earlier before this call and is available on our IR website at, as well as on global newswire services. We have also posted a PowerPoint presentation that accompanies our comments to the same IR website, where they are available for download.

On the call today from Baozun, we have Mr. Vincent Qiu, chairman and chief executive officer; Mr. Arthur Yu, chief financial officer and the president of Baozun e-commerce; and Ms. Sandrine Zerbib, president of Baozun brand management.

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Mr. Qiu will review the business strategy and company highlights, followed by Mr. Yu, who will discuss the business development of Baozun e-commerce and about our financials and outlook, and then by Ms. Zerbib to share more about Baozun brand management.

They will all be available to answer your questions during the Q&A session that follows. Before we begin, I would like to remind you that this conference call contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the U.S. Securities Act of 1933 as amended, the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as amended, and the U.S.

Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are based upon management’s current expectations and current market and operating conditions and relate to events that involve known or unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors, all of which are difficult to predict and many of which are beyond the company’s control, which may cause the company’s actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. Further information regarding these and other risks, uncertainties, or factors is included in the company’s filings with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission and its announcement notice or other documents published on the website of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited.

All information provided in this call is as of the date hereof and is based on the assumptions that the company believes to be reasonable as of today, and the company does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements except as required under applicable law. Finally, please note that unless otherwise stated, all figures mentioned during this conference call are in RMB. In addition, we may elect to use adjusted in place of non-general accounting — accepted accounting principles, or non-GAAP, in order to reduce any confusion that may arise from our discussion about the financial related to the Gap brand. There are — please turn to Slide Number 2, and it is now my pleasure to introduce our chairman and chief executive officer, Mr.

Vincent Qiu. Vincent, please go ahead.

Vincent QiuChairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Wendy. Hello, everyone, and thank you all for your time. 2023 kicked off our journey of transformation. Throughout 2023, Baozun Group demonstrated our resilience and adaptability to transformation.

BEC reinforced its omnichannel capability and improved service quality, consolidating our leadership within the digital commerce ecosystem. BBM contributed additional revenue stream and extends our value creation from supply chain to also supply chain fulfillment. We also further enhanced our cash-generating capabilities with cost optimization resulting from process reengineering and more efficient working capital management. Overall, despite the challenging market conditions, our annual operating cash flow and free cash flow both grew by double-digit year over year and surged to record highs.

This has significantly strengthened the financial health of the group. Total revenues of the group grew 5% year over year to 8.8 billion, underpinned by incremental contributions from Baozun brand management. BBM executed this strategy of premiumization for Gap China and achieved an impressive gross margin of 54% for the year. This has, in turn, resulted in much lower operating losses, far surpassing our initial forecast.

This breakthrough in our first year is the result of having established a solid foundation for growth and success in brand management. BBM is a key component of brand groups — Baozun group’s second growth curve. Baozun international, BZI, represents a longer-term opportunity for which we continue to lay the business foundation and the infrastructure. As BBM ramps up expansion following its acquisition of Hunter IP, BZI will play a vital role to expand Hunter into Southeast Asia, starting with Singapore and then Malaysia this year.

This is a good example of the synergy and the collaboration between our business units. We believe that our expertise in technology applied to operations and business transformations is at the core of Baozun’s identity. We are happy to share that Baozun has been acknowledged as a representative vendor in Gartner’s 2024 Market Guide for Distributed Order Management System. We are proud to be the only Asian vendor selected alongside global retail service giants such as Oracle, SAP, IBM, and Salesforce.

This is a recognition of Baozun’s outstanding technical capabilities in the industry. Looking forward, we remain cautious about the macro uncertainties, yet we are confident that our ongoing transformation has strengthened our business fundamentals and our value proposition to brand owners. Our main focus this year is to continue to execute our plans diligently and patiently in a sustainable manner. With a healthy cash flow and a balance sheet, we will be ready to seize new opportunities and provide lasting value to our shareholders.

This January, our board has also approved a new share repurchase program of $20 million over the next 12 months. We will execute this program from time to time, taking into account factors such as trading window and the marketing fluctuations. Let me now pass the call over to Arthur for a review of our financials and update on our e-commerce business, BEC, then to Sandrine for more elaboration on BBM.

Arthur YuChief Financial Officer and President of Baozun E-commerce

OK. Thank you, Vincent, and hello, everyone. Let me do a quick review of the financials for the fourth quarter and full year of 2023. After which, I will discuss our BEC business in more details.

Please turn to Slide Number 3. Baozun Group’s total revenues for the fourth quarter of 2023 expanded nearly 9% to 2.8 billion compared to the same quarter last year, driven by incremental BBM revenue of 458 million. Due to a weaker economic environment, our e-commerce revenue declined to 2.4 billion. Further pursuing a high-quality business model, we scaled back on low-margin product sales and trimmed low value-added service revenues.

Consequently, product sales revenue of e-commerce decreased 23% year over year, notably in the appliance, electronics, and fast-moving consumer goods categories. This was partially offset by increased sales from healthcare and beauty categories. Baozun brand management generated total revenue of 458 million, a sequential improvement of 53%. Our total product sales revenue grew by 36% to 1 billion and the gross profit for product sales more than doubled to 350 million.

Product sales gross margin for Baozun Group totaled 30%, significantly improved from 17% a year ago. The growth of our gross profit and gross margin was mainly attributable to incremental contribution from BBM. Group income from operations was 6.4 million during the quarter, of which e-commerce operating income was 50.1 million. BBM continued to show good momentum in reducing its operating loss to 43.7 million.

Gap’s premiumization strategy with discount control, new China for China product launch, and new store openings have all met our expectations. These initiatives will provide a foundation for better profitability in the coming quarters. Sandrine will cover the details later. On the group level, our net loss significantly narrowed to 2 million during the quarter from 256.5 million a year ago as we incurred a significant one-time fair value loss during the same period of last year.

Excluding the impact of ESOP, amortization, and other nonrecurring business factors, our adjusted income from operations was 75.7 million during the quarter. Of which, e-commerce adjusted operating income was 118.2 million and the BBM operating loss narrowed to 42.5 million. Our adjusted net income was 76.8 million during the quarter. Let’s now turn to a quick full year summary.

We ended 2023 with group total revenue of 8.8 billion, an increase of 5% year over year. Gross profit totaled 6.4 billion, an increase of 4% year over year. Our adjusted operating loss totaled 23.7 million. Please turn to Slide Number 4.

Turning to our cash and cash flow status. As of December 31, 2023, our cash, cash equivalents, restricted cash, and short-term investments totaled 3.1 billion. We continue to improve working capital efficiency through backend process reengineering on inventory, billing, and cash collection management. Annual operating cash flow and free cash flow were 454.5 million and 259.5 million, an increase of 19% and 46%, respectively, year over year.

Now, let’s dive into our BEC business. 2023 is a year of transition for our BEC business. At the beginning of the year, we set a strategic objective of achieving customer-centric, high-quality, and sustainable business growth for BEC. This guiding principle steered the team’s efforts and allocation of resources throughout the year.

As a result, we have made progress in the following three areas, as displayed on Slide Number 5. Firstly, the customer satisfaction enhancement. We introduced net promoter score, NPS, framework in collaboration with Nielsen in 2022. The objective of this initiative is to implement a robust client service quality management framework, defining precise standards for various services and measuring the outcomes.

I’m delighted to report that our NPS score has improved from 8.07 in 2022 to 8.23 in 2023. This improvement reflects our clients’ growing recognition of Baozun’s service and directly contribute to our outstanding contract renewal ratio. In 2023, over 97% of our key account clients chose to renew their contracts with Baozun, and I’m pleased that we are well on track to further improve customer satisfaction in 2024. Secondly, we focused on driving business growth through strengthening our omnichannel capabilities and expanding core product categories.

By participating in high-level discussions with brand partners and key marketplaces, we helped our brand partners formulate effective omnichannel go-to-market strategies for sustainable e-commerce business growth in China. This enabled us to acquire of over 50 new brands in 2023, including Tiffany, Tumi, and Dyson, just to name a few. From the product category standpoint, we consistently achieved growth in Baozun’s market share within our primary categories of luxury and premium apparel on both Tmall and JD platforms. And this has helped us established a solid foundation from which we will extend our reach into new product categories such as wine and spirits, health and beauty, and luxury automotive in 2024.

Given the dynamic nature of the e-commerce landscape, we are strategically investing in interest- and content-based e-commerce. In early 2003, we launched our creative content to commerce division, which included a Shanghai-based livestreaming center. This was followed by the announcement of our acquisition of Location, a leading Douyin partner, in November 2023. Leveraging on our established partnerships, we secured several contracts on Douyin channel with industry leaders like Zara, Crocs, Armani, and Coca-Cola, just to name a few.

Thirdly, we continued our efforts in efficiency improvement and cost control. During the year, we established a lean management committee to drive cost control and efficiency improvements. Our middle- and back-office functions have become leaner and more integrated through process reengineering. We also scaled up regional service centers by transferring approximately 770 new positions into these facilities, generating an annual cost saving of 24 million.

We integrated more AIGC initiatives through strategic partners with industry leaders such as Microsoft and OpenAI, enhancing daily operational efficiency of over 3,000 employees. Our efforts in working capital management also yield substantial results, setting new record in both operating cash flow and free cash flow, as mentioned in my financial update. Looking ahead, our primary focus for 2024 remains on executing our business strategy to create high-quality and sustainable business growth. We aim to fortify our market leadership position in the luxury and apparel categories while also expanding into high-potential categories such as wine and spirits, health and beauty, and luxury automotive.

We believe that we will naturally expand our market share and TAM in brand e-commerce. We will continue to enhance our omnichannel capabilities. One of our key focus is Douyin, where we leverage Location’s expertise in daily livestreaming, in conjunction with Baozun’s creative content and e-commerce operating experiences. Following the completion of Location acquisition in March 2024, we are now well-positioned to seize more opportunities from our brand partner and to create additional revenue streams for BEC.

In addition to Douyin, we are also working closely with and Little Red Book, aiming to build an extended ecosystem focused on value for money, content marketing, and traffic acquisition for our brand partners. We are also exploring business opportunities in other emerging channels such as Dewu and Kuaishou. We believe these new opportunities will extend our success across major e-commerce platforms, positioning us for sustainable growth. Lastly, we aim to further grow our high-quality product sales business in 2024.

In the past year and a half, we have been optimizing our product sales business model by emphasizing higher quality. When we refer to high quality, we are aiming for both improved margin and enhanced merchandising and inventory control. As part of this effort, we have elected to terminate certain partnership where the gross margin level and inventory risks did not meet our standard. In 2024, we have introduced a new business model where Baozun serves as the exclusive distribution partner for a given brand in China.

This model entails managing all sales channels, both online and offline, utilizing our omnichannel digital technology. We are confident that by applying Baozun’s leading data and system technology, we can seamlessly integrate online and offline channels to deliver a superior performance compared to traditional distributors. Furthermore, with our product sales business, our self-incubated brand, You Daily Plus, continued to deliver high double-digit growth in beauty and healthcare category. We are convinced that this new initiative will drive the growth in both revenue and profit margins for our product sales business in 2024.

Overall, I believe we have established a solid foundation and implemented the right initiative for our transition. We have confidence that we are now on track to strengthening BEC’s top and bottom line while continuing to generate healthy cash flow in 2024. Now, let’s pass on to Sandrine.

Sandrine ZerbibPresident, Baozun Brand Management

Thank you, Vincent and Arthur, and thank you all for joining us today. It is my great pleasure to speak with you. Please turn to Slide Number 6. As you recall, in February 2023, recognizing a golden opportunity to reinvigorate an iconic brand, BBM acquired the operations of Gap Greater China.

With a clear vision to transform Gap into a lifestyle brand tailored to the modern Chinese consumer, BBM embarked on a journey, fueled by innovation and strategic foresight. Our vision was to reinterpret American style for the modern Chinese consumer by localizing key elements of the core Gap brand DNA. We pursued a mission to make Gap products and messaging culturally relevant again in Greater China. The goal was not only to revitalize Gap products but also to reignite consumer love and loyalty, moving away from a discount-driven model to one that resonates deeply with the aspirations of the modern Chinese consumer.

We took over a business which had just closed 86 stores and was plagued by abnormally high levels of discounts all year round. And in just 11 months, BBM’s multicultural talent and diverse teams, coupled with impeccable execution and technology-driven solutions, achieved remarkable results. The transformation of Gap China from a discount-driven brand to consumer-centric powerhouse is evident in the following, as indicated on Slide Number 7. First, team, systems, and processes.

We focused on assembling the right team and implementing robust systems and processes to execute our turnaround strategy effectively. This included restructuring, hiring key personnel, and optimizing operational workflows, as well as putting in place a whole new set of systems to support our business. Then premiumization of the brand. We embarked on a comprehensive strategy to elevate the brand by focusing on product design, product segmentation, supply chain enhancements, and improving store image.

Our goal was to break free from the cycle of perpetual discounts and focus instead on appealing to consumers, thanks to our products and brand image. We introduced a new locally designed China for China products, aiming to deliver the right product for the right people at the right time. We launched the new products with an integrated go-to-market approach, combining celebrity endorsements, new store openings, and social media campaigns. We imposed discount control as the key factor driving the increase in gross margin percentage, which has reached about 1,100 basis points, excluding royalty.

We also opened our new store concept, which is more boutique, as opposed to the previous big box type of concept. We’re enhancing the brand DNA, transforming our stores into more than just commercial channels and creating immersive brand experiences. Our stores are now smaller in size but higher in square meter efficiency, optimizing space for a better customer experience. We’ve implemented scenario-based and serialized co-location of merchandise, creating relevant festive atmospheres that resonate with customers.

In-store pop-ups and campaigns are generating social buzz and further enriching the store experience for consumers. Leveraging WeChat and omni CRM, we are gaining insights into each customer and offering seamless engagements beyond the physical store. We successfully opened 10 new stores in 2023, including a flagship destination store in Guangzhou, as well as new stores in Chengdu, Shenzhen, and Beijing. We’ve enhanced the retail experience, achieving a 50% increase in square meter efficiency for newly opened stores versus the existing portfolio on a full year basis.

Additionally, our existing stores have seen a notable 19% rise in same-store comparable sales. Our new stores have been warmly welcomed not only by our customers but have also gained brand recognition within the retail industry. We are proud to report that we achieved our objectives in these areas within the time frame. In fact, in some aspects such as gross margin, we not only met but exceeded our 2023 targets.

This demonstrates the effectiveness of our strategies and the dedication of our team in turning around the business. In 2024, based on our strengthened foundation, we will continue to build on the momentum to solidify the brand’s fundamentals and revitalize growth for the Gap brand in China. While we pursue 2024 top-line growth, safeguarding our gross profit remains paramount. We will achieve this through stringent discount controls and increased special production tailored for our online business.

We expect that these efforts, combined with continued control of expenses, will lead us to achieve Gap China turnaround in 2025, as planned. Lastly, we have completed the acquisition of Hunter’s intellectual property and established a joint venture with Authentic Brands Group. We now co-own Hunter’s IP in Greater China and Southeast Asia, and BBM has become the licensee for operations in Greater China and part of Southeast Asia. Currently, we are in the preparation phase, focusing on tasks like store transfers and product planning.

The coming second quarter will be the official kickoff of our endeavors with Hunter. We have ambitious plans for Hunter’s growth, including expanding into new categories and diversifying our distribution channels to unlock the brand’s full potential in China, as well as in Singapore and Malaysia in Southeast Asia. Leveraging our Baozun international, BZI, business units, we aim to further support and accelerate Hunter’s business expansion in this region. This concludes our prepared remarks.

Thank you. Operator, we are now ready to begin the Q&A session.

Questions & Answers:


We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator instructions] The first question today comes from Alicia Yap with Citigroup. Please go ahead.

Alicia YapCiti — Analyst

Hi. Thank you. Good evening, management. Thanks for taking my questions.

I have two questions. One is what is the latest consumption shopping sentiment that you have observed over the past two months in 2024? What is management expectations of the macro overall and the consumption outlook for this year? While we think it’s still early, so I’m not sure, have you started to plan for this year’s 618 promotional festival? What do you expect that could be different this year versus previous years for the June 18th promotion period? And then second question is for the BBM business. Just wondering, have you noticed any meaningful difference in terms of the user spending habits? For example, the average purchasing value at the offline store versus, you know, what you have been operating, which is the online store, the behavior for the user that you can make some comparisons. And then if there is, you know, opportunity for you to acquire or add a few more brands to your BBM business, could you share with us your decision-making criteria and what kind of brands that you’re most eager to add to your portfolio of management? Thank you.

Arthur YuChief Financial Officer and President of Baozun E-commerce

OK. I will take the first one, Alicia, for your question, and then I will pass on to Sandrine and Vincent to talk about the second one. Yeah. Regarding the consumption sentiment, I have to say, the sentiment has still not recovered very quickly and the consumer confidence, as we can see in the figures, is still very low.

But within that, there are some highlight points where we can see some category has performed actually better, for example, outdoor, healthy foods, and nutrition. So, those are the spotlight, which we have seen some good — a good recovery on the consumption. Regarding to 618, we haven’t formally kicked off the plan for 618. That will start in May.

However, we have already focused on to improve the daily sales, for example, doing a good operation and doing a good customer service and try to engage with the customer, which is trying to build a customer base and getting ready for the big promotion in 618. And the difference I have seen for this year is the daily sales becoming more and more important, which means the ongoing operation from a capability perspective is becoming more and more important. So, that’s for my first question. Sandrine.

Sandrine ZerbibPresident, Baozun Brand Management

Yes. Thank you, Vincent. So, thank you, Alicia, for your question. So, first, the first part of your question is about online versus offline consumer behavior.

I mean, it’s pretty clear that the premiumization progress that I talked about is going faster offline than online. Nevertheless, online, we have also been able to achieve a much better gross margin than previously. So, it’s a question of cycle and timing. It takes longer.

Then regarding your second question, we are actually looking at multiple opportunities, but we are being extremely selective with in mind, I would say, these criteria — the four criteria I’m going to say, which are really the key criteria. The first one is obviously the segment and the category in which these brands belong to. We’re looking for brands that are operating in very dynamic segments and there are still pockets of growth, which are very interesting in China. The second key criteria is that these brands need to have some true potential to develop in the Greater China and potentially Southeast Asian markets.

The third one is the synergies with our current portfolio, particularly with regards to supply chain, but not only. It’s really synergistic brands we are looking at. And the fourth one is brands that will enable us through the right transaction to act on what has been really key so far to the successful progression of Gap, which is China for China, meaning that we need to be able to work on the product. And the second one, we need to be able to really make a digital difference with our technology leadership.

These are really the four key criteria for us.

Alicia YapCiti — Analyst

Thank you.


The next question comes from Thomas Chong with Jefferies. Please go ahead.

Thomas ChongJefferies — Analyst

Hi. Good evening. Thanks, management, for taking my questions. My question is first, can you talk about the growth outlook for non-Tmall channels and the contribution to our GMV? And then secondly, as we highlight in the prepared remarks, we are looking into operating efficiencies, improving profitability.

So, I just want to get some more color about the trend in our operating expenses and our margin outlook. And then finally, there is more about our use of cash and our thoughts about M&A. Thank you.

Arthur YuChief Financial Officer and President of Baozun E-commerce

OK, Thomas. Four questions. Yeah, let me take them one by one. The first one, outlook for non-Tmall channel.

As I mentioned in my early part, omnichannel is a trend and it’s a strategy we will follow in 2024. And we have put a lot of emphasis on Douyin and Tencent channel. We also are looking into the new channels like the and the rest. We believe, given the complexity and the evolving of the China e-commerce landscape, omnichannel is becoming more and more important.

From a numbers perspective, our non-Tmall channel has increased. However, we are not looking at the number by itself. We are looking at capabilities because the capability will allow us to do omnichannel. It doesn’t matter where the traffic goes.

We will be able to adjust along with the brand very quickly and very easily. So, that’s the first one. Your second question is about operating efficiency. So, from the BEC’s perspective, we established a lean management committee, looking at how to capture the cost saving and efficiency opportunities in a very structured way.

And in that program, we have already delivered very significant savings. So, for example, as I mentioned, our regional service center program has delivered — has transferred 770 positions from Shanghai to lower-cost location, which generates more than 20 millions of savings. That’s just one of those example. We have a set of those examples in terms of how to drive the cost savings.

In terms of the BBM, we’re currently focused on two things. One is from the third-party procurement. We actually put a lot of emphasis to deliver over 30% of savings in terms of the third-party procurement. And secondly, it’s the overhead control.

When we take over the business, we have streamlined the overhead to save the money. I will pass on to Sandrine to talk about the growth margin improvement in Gap as well, which also driving the margin improvement. Sandrine.

Sandrine ZerbibPresident, Baozun Brand Management

Well, I mean, for the gross margin, obviously, the procurement is an important part of it, as Arthur mentioned. But key all year round has been our absolute control over discounts so that we really bring the — we convince consumers to come and see us and buy our products, be it online or offline, not just because they’re discounted, but because they are good products with a good brand. So, in order to get these results, we had to exercise extreme discipline on discounts, that’s number one, but also to bring the right products at the right time in stores which are more attractive and with the right marketing communication and marketing messaging. This is in order to attract consumers.

Arthur YuChief Financial Officer and President of Baozun E-commerce

Yeah. Thank you, Sandrine. And on the use of cash and also M&A strategy. So, for the cash, as you’ve seen, because of our healthy cash flow, we keep a relatively high net position.

So, we will use our cash to deliver the shareholder value in both short term and long term. In the short term, as Vincent has announced, the board has approved a repurchase program on our share, and we will start the program once we have opportunity. And in the longer term, when we’re looking into using the cash to do M&A, we are very selective under the current market situation. We’re looking at a target for both strategic fit and also healthy financial status.

So, in this way, we will be able to use our cash very effectively to drive the longer-term value for our shareholders. So, that’s my answer, Thomas. Thank you.

Thomas ChongJefferies — Analyst

Thank you.


[Operator instructions] The next question comes from Wang Zhao with CICC. Please go ahead.

Wang ZhaoCICC — Analyst

Hi. Good evening and thanks for taking my questions. My first question is that you mentioned that Baozun will launch the footwear brand Hunter in the Southeast Asia, and could you please share some details about the strategies of Baozun’s international business in the 2024? And my second question is that could you please share your investment plan in AIGC and how AIGC will be used in company’s business? Thank you.

Vincent QiuChairman and Chief Executive Officer

OK. Thank you, Wang Zhao. This is Vincent. The first question is about our international business.

We call this BZI. I think, after this almost two years efforts, right now, we have established a full team who can deliver e-commerce services to the — our target brands, number one that is; and number two, we also established a brand business team as well. So, that means that we cannot only provide the traditional e-commerce services in this region, just like we are doing in China, but also we can help the brand to have the online, offline business, omnichannel business in Southeast Asia as well. Yeah.

So, this gives us a lot of potential to help the brands to expand their business into this region. So, right now, we have established several offices in different countries to run the business for e-commerce services and also the brand business. So, Hunter is a good example for the brand business. We are going to open online stores and offline stores this year — middle of this year.

And we’re also conducting marketing, you know, for brand marketing in Singapore and Malaysia. So, Singapore and Malaysia will be the first two places we’re going to run Hunter business in Southeast Asia. And also, you know, our experiences, data, technologies will be all utilized into this omnichannel Hunter business. So, that is for your first question.

The second one is about AIGC. I just want to talk this in two levels. The first level is that in a whole group, no matter if it’s BEC or branded business BBM, these two business units, we all use AIGC, in general. It means that when they — when we want to generate, no matter if it’s text or photos or videos, you know, we utilize the results from OpenAI and Microsoft, this kind of big players.

You know, so you can see AIGC capabilities in different — in almost all our functions of our business units. So, that is, in general, we are adapting this capability from the outside players. Secondly, based on that, based on the general capability, we also have some specific directions. We want to pour more resources to create some leading edge for the business to help them against their own competitors.

So, right now, it’s still in early stage. We are doing some of the — some of them are proof of concepts, some of them are minimum viable products. So — but we hope we can make progress this year because, compared to previous years, right now, we work much more closely with brands, especially Gap and Hunter. So, I think we can have much better results than before in this direction.

Yeah, that is for your second question. Thank you.

Wang ZhaoCICC — Analyst

Thank you.


The next question comes from Colin Shan with CITIC Securities. Please go ahead.

Colin ShanCITIC Securities — Analyst

Good evening, management. Thanks for taking my question. I’m calling Colin Shan from CITIC Securities, and I have two questions about BBM. The first is that we saw significant narrow down of Gap’s loss in the past quarters and the offline same-store sales achieved double-digit growth in the fourth quarter.

And during this process, what progress is better your expectation and what measures can be further adopted to improve the margin of Gap in the future? And the second question is that in your experience of running Gap, what’s the key know-how of fully running an international brand in China’s online and especially offline market directly, and how would that experience be leveraged in your further operations in other brands such as Hunter? Thank you.

Sandrine ZerbibPresident, Baozun Brand Management

OK. Thank you, Colin, for this question. So, on your first question, I think what was a good surprise clearly was the faster improvement of the gross margin than we expected. We had planned for improvement of gross margin.

It was actually at the heart of our plan. But honestly, it has been even better and faster than what we had expected. Of course, there is still room to further improve, overall, the fundamentals of the business. But still, I think it’s important to notice that it’s actually the most pleasant surprise, I would say.

Now, what room we have to further improve? It’s going to be through obviously further working on refining product and product segmentation. That’s pretty clear. But also by using data. We explained that in the first phase of our work, which was ’23, we already did quite some work to change all the legacy systems of Gap China and to bring a new platform of systems, thanks to Baozun technology.

Now, really, in this second phase, we want to go much further in terms of data, enabling us to be even thinner in our understanding of consumers and also enabling us to have almost instant reaction in terms of messaging and products, once we have this very refined information. So, that’s for the gross margin. But gross margin, also, overall, requires continued discipline. It’s a lot about the discipline on discounts.

And overall, also, regarding our strategy going forward, now, I think, clearly, we want to go back to a growth strategy with more store opening, continued improvements of our store productivity, and a multichannel approach to our online business. So, that’s for the first part of your question. On the second part of the question, I think, in terms of synergies, clearly, it’s going to be about the product machine, number one; and number two, the systems. But in terms of overall learning and — of the — from the experience, it’s also about how important the teams and the people are in this business.

It’s all about people. And I think this is something we really worked hard to put the right team together, and we’re quite happy with our team. But it’s also about constantly trying to enchant the consumers’ experience with interesting stores, interesting stories, interesting products. And this — in a time of a weaker consumption, this necessary enchantments of consumers is even more important.

That’s for my answer to your questions, Colin.

Colin ShanCITIC Securities — Analyst

Thank you, Sandrine. And very clear for my question about BBM. And I have a follow-up question about the BEC. And since the beginning of the year, almost all e-commerce platforms are talking about and emphasizing about the price power.

And from the perspective of Baozun and from the perspective of brands, how do you view the competition and situation of China’s domestic e-commerce platforms and how — did you see any — the consumption characteristics changes in consumers’ behavior and how would Baozun react to this trend? Thank you.

Arthur YuChief Financial Officer and President of Baozun E-commerce

Yeah. Thank you, Colin, and these are good questions. Yeah, we have also observed the increased emphasis on the price point and also the service level from each of the platform. We believe it’s actually a good trend because they will make sure the platform actually delivering a better service to the brand and also to the consumer.

From a consumer perspective, quality has always been a theme. So, a good quality brand will always have the market. Value for money doesn’t mean good quality brands will not be favored by a lot of consumers. So, instead, the latest technology and the transparency of all the e-commerce platform provides a good opportunity for consumers to compare and choose where they buy.

And that drives two things. Number one is how to design — how to define an omnichannel strategy for those brands on the current e-commerce dynamic is very important. So, that’s where Baozun can use our experience and our technology to help. Secondly, it’s the experience.

How to improve the online purchasing experience for the brand to help them to increase the conversion? This is also what we can do using the data and technology to enhance. So, with that trend, we believe where Baozun positions, we are very strong in technology, we are very strong in data, we have a huge experience across different categories, will allow us to grow the market share in the current dynamic of e-commerce. Thank you, Colin.


The next question comes from Charlotte Wei with HSBC. Please go ahead.

Charlotte WeiHSBC — Analyst

Hi. Good evening, management. Thank you for taking my questions. I’m asking on behalf of Charlene.

So, I have a question regarding the product sales segment. We understand that product sales has been under adjustment and some challenges for two years. How should we think about this trend entering into 2024? So, is there any chance we can see this segment the revenue growth or decline can stabilize this year, and what are the key drivers and the challenges here? Thank you.

Arthur YuChief Financial Officer and President of Baozun E-commerce

Yeah, thank you for the question. For the product sales, first of all, it has already started to see the stabilization in Quarter 1, and we will see the product sales revenue, following our plan, starts to increase from Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 onwards. For the full year, we expect to see increased product sales revenue from BEC. From the business management perspective, we put a lot of emphasis on better control of the risk from the product sales.

What we emphasize on is two things. Number one is inventory and number two is the commercial terms. We will make sure we rationalize the inventory level to reduce the risk and enhance our cash flow. At the same time, in the negotiation, we will put a strict requirement on our commercial terms to protect our gross margins.

So, that’s the first one. Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, we introduced a new business model on product sales this year, which is focused on acquiring the exclusive distribution ownership for our brand. So, in this model, Baozun will have a full control of all sales channel, both online and offline. And using our data and system technology, we will be able to enhance the efficiency throughout our system, and we believe we will do better than traditional distributors by using our data and technology.

And thirdly, as I mentioned earlier, our own incubated brand, You Daily Plus, has seen a double-digit growth. And in 2024, we expect to see that part will further increase, and that will also help to drive the product sales revenue. With those initiatives, we believe we can drive both the online — and we can drive both the top line and bottom line of our product sales business. Thank you.


This concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Wendy Sun for any closing remarks.

Wendy SunSenior Director, Corporate Development and Investor Relations

Thank you, operator. On behalf of the Baozun management team, we’d like to thank you for all your participation in today’s call. If you have any further questions, just feel free to reach out to us. This concludes the call.

Thank you.

Arthur YuChief Financial Officer and President of Baozun E-commerce

OK. Thank you, everyone.

Sandrine ZerbibPresident, Baozun Brand Management

Thank you.


[Operator signoff]

Duration: 0 minutes

Call participants:

Wendy SunSenior Director, Corporate Development and Investor Relations

Vincent QiuChairman and Chief Executive Officer

Arthur YuChief Financial Officer and President of Baozun E-commerce

Sandrine ZerbibPresident, Baozun Brand Management

Alicia YapCiti — Analyst

Thomas ChongJefferies — Analyst

Wang ZhaoCICC — Analyst

Colin ShanCITIC Securities — Analyst

Charlotte WeiHSBC — Analyst

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