Mon, Apr 11, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Jackie Chan's business empire kicks into place

FAT PORTFOLIO After a few setbacks, the action star has been developing an extensive line of his signature products, from cookies to fitness gyms

AP , HONG KONG

His fans own copies of Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, but now kung fu movie star Jackie Chan (成龍) wants them to wear his T-shirts, sleep on a bed he designed, shop at his supermarket, dine at his restaurants and work out at his gyms.

One of the world's most famous Chinese celebrities hopes to parlay movie superstardom into a merchandising and retail empire that encompasses everything from clothing to cookies.

The action star's expanding business portfolio includes a clothing label, Jackie's Kitchen restaurants, a sushi eatery chain, Jackie Chan signature club gyms and most recently, a line of chocolates and nutritional oatcakes.

Chan's ambition doesn't end there -- he aspires to be a Martha Stewart-like marketing juggernaut.

The actor's goal is "total lifestyle branding," said Bon Ng, the business executive Chan has charged with developing his brand.

"Our coverage will be wide," Ng said, noting Chan hopes to expand into furniture and kitchenware.

It's not Chan's first foray into business. Chan said he opened car repair shops, gyms, gift shops and restaurants 20 years ago, but they failed because he wasn't savvy enough in business.

"I thought since I could make movies, I tried business on my own. I didn't know how to calculate, how much things I bought cost, how much a month's rent cost ... I lost several million, then millions again," he told reporters at a celebration of the third anniversary of his clothing line. Now, Chan said he's hired professional businessmen to do the nitty-gritty work, while he makes strategic decisions.

The popularity of his products also coincides with the rise of his stardom. Chan cemented his international superstardom in the late 1990s with the Hollywood action comedy Rush Hour, costarring Chris Tucker.

He has now been on the US talk show circuit and appeared on the prestigious US comedy show Saturday Night Live. US cities have designated Jackie Chan Day. The Toronto and Los Angeles police departments have named him an honorary policeman.

Jackie Chan is such a potent symbol for Hong Kong that local tourism officials have asked him to promote the territory as a travel destination.

Now Chan is hoping his strong name recognition will translate into a successful, all-encompassing product lineup.

It's an approach known in business parlance as "brand extension." Companies venture into new areas of businesses by leveraging the credibility of their existing products.

"Many companies know the value of their brands doesn't just lie in their product categories," said University of Hong Kong business professor Bennett Yim.

But Yim said so far it's a controversial formula that hasn't been proven. He said one form of safe brand extension is to venture into complementary products, such as a shaver maker launching a shaving cream.

Chan seems to have avoided that strategy by eyeing a "lifestyle" brand -- although he has diversified his entertainment products, unveiling his own cartoon series that pits Chan against bad guys in a battle for 12 magic talismans.

But Chan is capitalizing on his wholesome, healthy image. Case in point is the "Jackie Chan signature club" gyms, a partnership with California Fitness, part of the US-based 24 Hour Fitness health club chain. The gyms will offer special Jackie Chan workout classes.

Another example is Chan's line of cookies for the health conscious. Chan says he may even open "Jackie Chan supermarkets" in the future. He claims consumers will naturally think that any food product that bears his name is healthy.

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