Retailers report increasing appetite for the great outdoors

Updated: 2013-04-03 05:31

By Li Woke (China Daily)

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 Retailers report increasing appetite for the great outdoors

A woman and child try out a display tent at Decathlon's store in Wuhan, Hubei province. Provided to China Daily

Sporting goods manufacturers respond with new product lines

As Wuhan's famous spring cherry blossom starts to appear everywhere across town, Qin Shuang has been busy putting up tents.

The manager of the Decathlon store in the capital city of Hubei province, says the appearance of the pink and white flowers signals the start of his busy season, when people are most likely to buy outdoor equipment.

"I have to arrange my most popular items, such as tents, football and basketball sneakers, so consumers can see them as soon as they step into the store."

Qin said outdoor enthusiasts start arriving in large numbers in April and May, when people feel the weather warming up.

It's the busiest time of the year for the French retail chain, Qin said.

"My best sellers are tents, waterproof jackets and backpacks. Business may double this month and next," said Qin.

Jens Meyer, the vice-president of marketing at Adidas Sport Performance China, a major player in the global outdoors market, says spending on outdoor clothing is growing faster than any other segment of the sporting goods industry in China.

In 2012, Adidas Outdoor began setting up franchised stores in a number of Chinese cities, in anticipation of a boom in sales this year.

Colin Currie, the managing director of Adidas Group, Greater China, added: "Last year, sales grew 15 percent year-on-year, and Adidas aims to maintain double-digit growth, as well as accelerate its store expansion this year."

According to data from ISPO BEIJING, organizers of the 9th International Tradeshow of Sports Equipment and Fashion in Asia, which opened in Beijing in late February, the Chinese outdoors industry was worth 11 billion yuan ($1.78 billion) in sales in 2011, a year-on-year growth of more than 40 percent.

Li Chen, the marketing manager of Mammut China, the local arm of Mammut Sports Group AG, the Swiss producer of mountaineering and trekking equipment, attended the huge trade show.

"We entered the Chinese market at the start of the year, and we think the market will be huge," Li said.

"Many more Chinese consumers are discovering their love for nature, their desire to spend time outdoors in an effort to relieve their work pressures."

The market is also being tackled by local sports companies.

Li Ning Co Ltd, the Chinese sports wear company, announced this year that it had entered the sector by launching its own outdoor product line, Li Ning Adventure.

"There has been intense competition in the traditional sports wear industry, which has suffered sluggish growth for years, and an increasing number of companies have to provide huge discounts to survive in the market," said Hu Nan, the general manager of Li Ning Adventure.

"But by contrast, the outdoors industry has seen significant growth."

Li Ning's adventure offering is different from the more established international companies, such as Mammut and Adidas.

The clothing and shoes are aimed at more leisure use, than rugged outdoors.

"We want to provide pieces that people would wear for comfort. They appeal to people who want to explore, but who have a balanced work-life approach," said Hu.

While Li Ning is trying to offer a range of different outdoor products, Decathlon says it provides customers with much more of a fun shopping experience to encourage them to make purchases.

Qin's Decathlon store in Wuhan, for instance, is 6,000 square meters spread over two floors.

It has basketball and tennis courts.

"We hope customers can enjoy the sports for free, while they shop for their goods," Qin said.

Guo Hongchi, the chief executive of, a leading e-commerce website for sporting goods, added: "Foreign outdoor brands such as Mammut and North Face have the great advantage in China of being internationally established as brand leaders, renowned for high tech, professional products.

"The domestic brands are still lagging far behind on research and development capabilities."

(China Daily 04/03/2013 page15)