Rio has put sport top of mind and in this Olympic year China’s top sportswear brands have been pulling out all the stops to fully-exploit the Games. Whilst Chinese brands have started to enjoy a degree of international recognition they are still finding it hard to compete against the more long-established western brands.
The ongoing promotion of mass sport and fitness in China has meant a huge boost to the sportswear industry, as has the huge rise in the number of people living in cities. Motivated by the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle over a third of the country’s population exercises at least three times a week. Adidas and Nike have seen its China sales grow exponentially as the active-leisure trend has hit. As consumer spending power has increased so has the willingness to invest in a healthy lifestyle and the status promised by quality foreign brands. Add to this the emergence of intelligent products, such as wearable sports devices, healthy eating and dining, sports academies and fitness clubs, and outdoors adventures, and the potential to attract more actively healthy customers has never been greater.
Consumers are perceiving value in brand identity and product differentiation, which are still weaknesses of domestic brands. Savvy brands are taking up the challenge to improve physical activity in China. Adidas is to work with the Chinese Ministry of Education to train up to 7,000 physical education teachers.
Beyond being more health conscious there has been a generational and societal shift towards more casual clothing. Consumers are seeking comfort, style and function. Sportswear brands are becoming more urban, fashionable and versatile. The upgrade cycle of new designs and high-tech materials keeps consumers engaged and coming back for more. Brands such as Lululemon have taken advantage of the “she-economy” and the demand for fashionable “athleisure” apparel.
Sportswear is edging luxury and sales are robust. Niche opportunities exist for high-tech functional and fashion-forward brands.