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Adidas to launch robotmade shoes from




ADIDAS, the German maker of sportswear and equipment, announced Tuesday that it will start marketing its first series of sportshoes manufactured by robots in Germany from 2017.

More than 20 years after Adidas ceased production activities in Germany and moved them to Asia instead, chief executive Herbert Hainer, unveiled to the press the groups new prototype Speedfactory in Ansbach in southern Germany.

The new state-of-the-art 4,600-square-metre plant is still being built, but Adidas showed off a foretaste of it to the press, promising to automatise shoe production, currently done mostly by hand in Asia, and enable the shoes to be made more quickly and closer to its sales outlets.

The factory will deliver a first test series of around 500 pairs of shoes to be sold from the third quarter of 2016.

Large-scale production will then begin in 2017 and Adidas is planning a second Speed Factory in the United States in the same year, said Hainer.

The group is targeting production of around half a million shares per year within three to five years at each site, said Gerd Manz, head of innovation and technology.

CEO Hainer insisted that the speed factories would not immediately replace the work of subcontractors done in Asia.

Our goal is not full automatisation, said Manz.

Adidas produced 301 million pairs of sportshoes in 2015 and needs to produce 30 million additional pairs each year to reach its growth targets by 2020.

Contacted by AFP, six subcontractors of Adidas in China declined to comment or said they were not aware of the new rival production sites.

In the longer term, Adidas is planning to build robot-operated factories in Britain or in France, and could even produce the shirts of Germanys national football team in its home country, said Hainer.

The shoes made in Germany would sell at a similar price to those produced in Asia, he promised.

Adidas is facing rising production costs in Asia, where it employs around one million workers.

Archrival Nike is also developing its robot-operated factory, but Adidas was well ahead of its rivals in this area, Hainer insisted.

For the first time in history, machines are enabling us to be the masters of intelligence, providing a tantalising glimpse of what might one day be achieved. Could a machine could ever think like us, and what would that mean?

Australian retailers cash in as chinese shoppers rush to get their hands on a bargain


THE world’s biggest shopping festival posted $1.3 billion ($US1 billion) of sales within the first five minutes, and the clock is still ticking.

Alibaba Groups 11.11 extravaganza, which kicked off at midnight local time in Shenzhen, is expected to break last years $14.3 billion record as Chinese shoppers rush to get their hands on a bargain.

And Australian retailers have been among the winners, with Chemist Warehouse leading the way after selling almost $2 million worth of stock in the first 13 minutes of the 24-hour sale, which is still under way.

While the clock started ticking at 3am Sydney time on most of Alibabas platforms, Australian shoppers must wait until 7pm on Friday to access bargain on Aliexpress the English-language eBay rival known for its cheap electronics, toys, fast fashion and smart phone accessories.

OPENING NIGHT GALA

The excitement of Chinese shoppers was palpable at Thursday nights Gala countdown to the start of sales, a star-studded event at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center.

Thousands of online shoppers and merchants crowded into the stadium at 8pm local time to be a part of the spectacle, orchestrated by Hollywood producer David Hill.

Audience members were waving glow sticks, shaking their phones in a bid to win prizes and tapping screens while being regaled by an endless parade of performers and games.

Chinese opera and pantomime, kids performers and pop stars shared the stage with international stars in what Alibaba executives describe as the future of retail.

While headline act Katy Perry pulled out at the last minute, citing a family emergency, there were plenty of local and international stars on hand.

Victoria and David Beckham appeared on stage at the televised Gala, with the fashionista launching a new pair on sunglasses that I have designed exclusively for China, and her footballer husband promoting his whisky.

Victorias Secret models Josephine Skriber, Alessandra Ambrosio and Sui He strutted their stuff, while Chinas favourite basketballer, American Kobe Bryant, joined in a game in where contestants threw blocks into a moving tractor.

Hamming it up for the audience, Bryant appeared to struggle to score a slam dunk, and good-humouredly answered questions about what items he liked to buy online (basketballs for the kids).

While a lot of the action was lost in translation to visiting media especially the comic routines the crowd loved it.

Close to midnight, Alibaba founder Jack Ma himself appeared inside a box on stage and performed a series of magic tricks, culminating in the evenings big celebrity reveal, when he made Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson appear on stage.

bTHE FUTURE IS HERE

The 11.11 sale began as a promotion on Alibabas Tmall online marketplace in 2009, when Ma came up with the idea of having a promotion on Singles Day, an unofficial Chinese holiday celebrating single people.

Now it is bigger than Americas Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined; last year, sales were up 55 per cent on the 2014 results.

Ma has made clear his vision of capturing the hearts and minds of shoppers around the world, with expansion plans in South-East Asia and a new office in Melbourne supporting Australian businesses to reach Chinese consumers.

Youre looking at the future of retail, Alibaba Vice Chairman Joe Tsai told media at the start of the festival.

The future of retail is China, its not anywhere else. What is unique here is that shopping has become entertainment.

Making retail fun was the key to selling to Chinese millennials, who made up three-quarters of Alibabas users, Mr Tsai said.

In the West, when you log onto Amazon, its a chore you want to get out of there as soon as possible; you dont want to stay on the site, he said.

Young people wanted to share their shopping baskets with their friends, he said, and were embracing the gamification of shopping, with interactivity via apps and integrated virtual reality sales.

For all its dazzle, though, Alibabas 11.11 festival has drawn controversy around how it accounts for purchases, with the US Securities and Exchange Commission currently examining data from last years promotion after concerns were raised that the total may include sales faked by third-party merchants or transactions that havent been paid for.

Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai has said the company is co-operating with the regulator and sharing information.

Dana McCauley travelled to China as a guest of Alibaba.