Inside China’s booming sportswear market

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Eleven years after the Chinese capital of Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Chinese people are even more enthusiastic about sports and often actively register for sporting events like marathons. This also means a booming market for trendy sportswear.

A growing middle class, pro-sports government, and rising health awareness have contributed to the rapidly increasing consumer appetite for sportswear, making China the world’s second-largest sportswear market in 2017.

Last year, the retail sector generated maximum revenue for the industry. 

Branded sportswear along with digital devices like smart watches and fitness trackers are some of the major pillars, according to Jia Wei, a Beijing-based representative of Mailman Group, a company that  manages digital presence of international brands in sports and entertainment industries. 

A massive chunk of the revenue in retail was generated through numerous marathon runners who need to equip themselves with proper outfits and digital gadgets before participating in such events.   

Over 79 Chinese cities hosted marathons in 2015, and the figure rose to 234 in 2017. 

Last year, more than 70 percent prefecture-level cities hosted at least one marathon event, according to the China Athletics Association.

Now, fashion brands are teaming up with sportswear brands to cater to a large section of customers who don’t want to comprise on fashion while focusing on fitness.  

The marriage of sports and fashion originated from the fashion industry. After giants like ZARA and Topshop found that people are willing to buy more sportswear, the traditional sportswear businesses like Adidas and Nike started to catch up with the trend, said Jia.

Nike’s latest financial report shows double-digit growth in its China sales in the last 18 consecutive quarters, while Adidas has recorded over 20 percent sales growth in China in more than 11 financial quarters. 

Chinese brand Li Ning taking its sneakers to New York Fashion Week FW19 this year is another example, she added. 

Euromonitor estimates that China’s market for sportswear will surpass luxury goods market by 2020.

Even as the overall sports industry is booming in China, stories about unsuccessful gym and fitness center ventures are not very uncommon.

Jia suggested the most important is to find the right target audience and do some actual research apart from being just passionate. 

“Sports itself is a complex business, it is connected with different elements, the key is to be rational and go step by step,” said Jia.

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