Unique innovation brings upgraded experience by GenBridge portfolios’ over 2000 new lifestyle chains


“The New Generation National Chain” represents the dual investment focus of GenBridge Capital, where we particularly emphasize opportunities in two distinct scenarios: one rooted in communities, addressing the essential needs of daily life based on the concept of “Neighborhood Chain Stores,” and the other based in shopping centers, aiming to enhance user experiences through innovation in the “Shopping Center Network of a Thousand Stores.”

In recent years, the shopping center industry has experienced robust growth. With over 6,000 shopping centers nationwide, each exceeding 30,000 square meters, the total number continues to increase by over 500 annually. Compared to small stores dispersed throughout the neighborhood, the concentrated impact of shopping centers is more pronounced. China’s shopping centers are undergoing a new development surge since the pandemic subsides. According to the analysis by Yingshang Net, in the just-concluded three quarters, over 100 new shopping centers opened across the country, with more than 60 projects launching in a concentrated manner by the end of September, boosted by the National Day holiday.

The diverse and enriching experiences provided by shopping centers are crucial factors influencing consumer preferences. GenBridge’s portfolios are continuously innovating and iterating in the shopping center, striving to offer users an enhanced life experience. During the Founders Session of GenBridge’s 2023 AGM in Shenzhen, we hosted a thematic roundtable with entrepreneurs from the “New Lifestyle Chain” sector related to GenBridge’s shopping center initiatives. Guests included Xingzhu Xue, Founder of Xueji; Kimi, Founder of M Stand; Yihan Huang, Founder of HIMO; Ju Ma, Founder of Ludao; and Lei Hong, Founder of Mr.Ma’s Noodle.

GenBridge Capital remains optimistic about the systematic business opportunities within shopping centers. Concurrently, we have been supporting and witnessing numerous partner companies rapidly expand from regional origins to national presence. Our partner companies have opened over 2,000 stores in shopping centers nationwide, with plans to reach 3,000; they are also pioneers and leaders in various categories, spanning the realms of dining, services, and retail.

We hope their innovative thinking can inspire more industry professionals, paving the way for further breakthroughs. The following are key takeaways from the roundtable discussion:

Xingzhu Xue, Founder of Xueji

I am Xingzhu Xue, the founder of Xueji, 45-year-old this year, and has been in the roasted nuts industry for 31 years. My entrepreneurial goal is to work with my colleagues to build a century-old enterprise.

Since we established the brand, Xueji in 2018, we have successfully nailed it with two major products: melon seeds and chestnuts. This year, the chestnut production was over 10,000 tons, making it our most superstar product. Xueji’s stores are spread across the country, currently totaling 900, planning to expand to 1,000 by the year-end. My clear target is to reach 3,500 stores in the first phase and advance to over 6,000 stores in the second phase.

When it comes to roasted snacks, many may consider it a traditional or even an old-school industry. I have been through different phases, from roasting with firewood to coal, and then to electric roasting, and gradually learned that Xueji needed constant upgrades and changes to meet customer demands. We innovated the chestnut flagship product, implementing upgrades in harvesting, storage, processing, and transportation, which we now call “Chestnut Treasure,” emphasizing its healthiness. In shopping malls, we use five-star ovens, innovating a method with no crazy smoke and fire, or maestro roasting techniques. Simultaneously, we attract customers with friendly service and a cozy and home-like vibe in our stores. Besides, our R&D efforts introduced the “Chestnut Freshness Keeping” technology, keeping the chestnuts’ sweet and sticky texture at minus 38 degrees Celsius, changing the seasonal chestnut products into a year-round high-quality hit.

I would also like to share about Xueji’s blockbuster product in 2019, the “Milk Dates.” It was originally an unsold item, so we flipped the script by removing pits, adding almonds, New Zealand milk powder and Anchor butter, creating a product that young people love, packed with vibes. Our strategy is creating nut-plus and dried fruit-plus products, turning classics into ones that are tastier, healthier, more valuable and more welcomed among young people.

Kimi, Founder of M Stand

I’m Kimi, the founder of M Stand. It has been 6 years since we started M Stand in Shanghai back in 2017, and now we’ve got 400+ stores spread out across around 30 cities nationwide. M Stand’s brand positioning is an offline exquisite coffee store – young, quality, and with styling.

While the coffee industry is packed with competition, we appreciate the presence of Starbucks and Luckin’ because they both played a positive role in the Chinese coffee game. Luckin’, with its innovative model and efficiency, showed us there’s a massive coffee love potential in China and has encouraged more to start drinking coffee. Although China is still in the early stage of coffee consumption, consumers’ attitudes toward coffee have changed dramatically since 2017, sipping it as part of their daily grind – work, chill, and socializing, instead of seeing it as a luxury.

M Stand isn’t running in the same lane as Starbucks and Luckin’. Everyday coffee buzz opened up a bigger market, and consequently, consumers want more choices. Despite the changes and challenges in the market over the past two years, we’re still in the game, evolving. Standing out through differentiation is the key for us; we’re not just following the crowd. We’re carving out our identity through a youthful brand, top-notch coffee, and some unique twists. We’ve also defined our price range, falling between 20 to 30 yuan.

M Stand isn’t just about coffee; it’s about good vibes, better emotional value, and enhanced experience in-store. People choose different coffee brands for different situations, so we’re growing by keeping our customers loyal and making them regulars. We’re aiming to be a part of more people’s daily routines, offering them some solid value.

Yihan Huang, Founder of HIMO

I’m Huang Yihan, the founder of HIMO, born in the 90s. Photography has always been my thing since back in high school, when I got my first DSLR, and I set up a studio during my sophomore year. My dream is to weave photography, this incredible medium, into people’s everyday lives. Imagine everyone having their own personal photo haven, capturing unique traits, emotions, and sticking around for years. This photo haven will be right there with people, documenting timeless moments wherever they go.

I see photography as this amazing bridge connecting time, space, and beauty. It captures those moments, letting people hold onto, remember, and transcend through time and space. But, let’s be real, photography used to be distant for people, for example, it was all about wedding photos, and ID pics or going to a studio, which was a bit of a hassle. I wanted to change that narrative, make photography part of everyday life.

Luckily, HIMO has nearly 600 stores up and running, covering almost 90 cities. We cater to three types of user needs. First up, we’ve got the pro photos – the ones showcasing confidence, traits, hobbies, and personality. We call these the functional products, like ID photos and professional shots. Then, there are the memory lane products – for birthdays, Mother’s Day, or family portraits, you name it. Last but not least, exploration products – encouraging users to explore different styles and expressions in our studios.

Back in the early days, we pioneered making top-notch ID photos accessible to everyone, recognizing the need for a “light, quick, and simple” portrait mode for the masses.

Later, we fused portraits into our studios, introducing artistic photo products with a clean, minimalist style. A captivating photo needs to express individual traits and emotions, and by incorporating these elements, our store performances saw a substantial boost.

Over the past three to four years, HIMO has fostered the market, introducing Christmas-themed photos and encouraging people to spontaneously take photos during specific holidays, creating a proactive demand. Recently, we’ve launched several collaborations, such as Disney Princess and Harry Potter series, meeting customers’ demands for role-playing.

Looking ahead, we’re rolling out more product lines to meet the ever-growing demand for photography. Photography has become a crucial scene in people’s daily lives, and we aim to leverage our strengths to provide better services for consumers.

Ju Ma, Founder of Ludao

Ludao is a lifestyle retail brand primarily focused on the clothing business that caters to the daily needs of families. Leveraging China’s rich and robust consumer goods manufacturing system, we serve a diverse customer base in numerous urban households.

Our clothing category is designed for the masses, with a focus on basic styles that cater to all family members. Our aim is to provide consumers with affordable yet high-quality clothing. In addition to clothing, Ludao positions itself as a lifestyle brand, providing consumers with products essential for daily life. Our product ecosystem covers various aspects of life, including household utensils, bedding, flowers, and tea – all reflecting the most authentic Chinese family lifestyle. In summary, by integrating various categories to create a panoramic view of ordinary family daily consumption, we aim to address the basic “100 items” daily needs of a household, allowing customers to spend at least 2-3 hours both online and offline.

Ludao is also committed to becoming a leading brand in non-standard daily consumer goods. We integrate non-standard products into our product portfolio, allowing users to seek low prices, functionality, and quality while experiencing products with Chinese cultural attributes and spiritual significance. Take Chinese tea as an example – a category that embodies a healthy lifestyle and is part of Chinese culture. In the past, many international brands succeeded with era-specific symbols, leveraging the advantages of Chinese manufacturing factories and supply chains. However, categories like tea and tea accessories are localized, featuring non-standard product characteristics with significant integration value in terms of cost and quality.

Currently, non-standard products are often produced by numerous small family workshops, and they are limited to circulating in low-value channels such as street markets, ancient towns, and wholesale markets. There is a natural preference among many consumers for industrial and grassroots-style products in their daily lives. In an era where the revival of Chinese culture is inevitable, brands that profoundly succeed in certain Chinese characteristic categories may become new symbols of internationalization. Ludao aims to deeply cultivate the non-standard daily consumer goods industry, providing an ecosystem for suppliers in the industry to grow these non-standard products within the brand.

Lei Hong, Founder of Mr.Ma’s Noodle

Mr.Ma’s Noodle was founded in 2019 in a shopping center, and positioned as a chain restaurant brand focusing on high-frequency, low-price essential categories based on customer value. Currently, we have nearly 300 stores nationwide.

Over the past few decades, consumers’ pursuit of a better life has remained unchanged. Everyone loves beef noodles, and Mr.Ma’s Noodle has placed it in shopping centers, redefining Lanzhou beef noodles as the most cost-effective fast food choice in shopping centers.

The essence of fast-food competition is fundamentally about price range, not category. Users choose restaurants based on the price range, and their choices are relatively random. From the user’s perspective, a brand essentially provides a sense of security and certainty. We insist on offering cleanliness, hygiene, and handmade cooking. In the future, Mr.Ma’s Noodle will certainly expand beyond shopping centers and reach more distant communities.

Robert Chang, Founder & Managing Partner of GenBridge Capital

Robert expressed that the “New Lifestyle Chain” based in shopping centers is becoming an increasingly popular offline space for Chinese families to relax. GenBridge’s portfolio have creatively upgraded many classic categories, allowing them to enter shopping centers and provide consumers with higher-quality products and experiences.

Behind this innovation and upgrade is the profound insight of entrepreneurs into consumer needs and their organizational ability to keenly seize opportunities for front-end changes. GenBridge continues to have confidence in and focus on new opportunities in shopping centers, anticipating the discovery of more enterprises in the future that will bring surprises to users.