Timberland launches assault on outdoor market

Updated: 2012-09-19 10:09

By Li Fangfang (China Daily)

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Timberland LLC, the US outdoorwear manufacturer, said it is planning an aggressive expansion of its retail network in China over the next five years, to satisfy demand in the country's burgeoning outdoor leisure sector.

Stewart Whitney, vice-president and managing director of Timberland Asia Pacific Region, said the company plans to open "40 to 50 stores in China a year", and upgrade and expand some of its existing stores over the next five years.

After launching in the Chinese mainland six years ago, Timberland now has 150 outlets and around 20 dealership partners.

"China has been Timberland's fastest growing market over the past three years, and we expect it to maintain that growth over the next five years," said Whitney.

Without disclosing details, he said that the US company has enjoyed "double-digit growth" in each of its years in the mainland.

"This is a dynamic market, and Timberland is making full preparation for a long-term commitment here," said Whitney.

"In recent years, Chinese consumers are paying much more attention to outdoor lifestyle, and we only see that increasing in coming years."

According to the China Textile Commerce Association, China's outdoor apparel market has grown at an average annual rate of 47.33 percent over the past decade.

In 2011, total revenue in the sector reached 10.76 billion yuan ($1.7 billion), and the number of outdoor brands being sold in the country surged by 29 percent, to 717, year-on-year.

Columbia Sportswear, the US brand which launched in the Chinese mainland market in 2004, is generally seen as the Chinese outdoor market leader, with 530 outlets in 135 Chinese cities, and sales of $123 million last year.

To increase its pole position, Columbia recently announced it had formed a 60-40, 20-year joint venture with Swire Resources Ltd, a holding company with extensive retail and wholesale interests in sports and lifestyle footwear and apparel in the mainland and Hong Kong, to expand its sales as well as that of Columbia subsidiary, Mountain Hardwear.

To strengthen its foothold in China, Whitney said that Timberland has to first open stores in the right places, and then present the brand and products with some dynamic marketing.

That effort kicked off in May in Shanghai with the opening of its first self-owned store in the city.

"In my opinion, to be a success in China we need to have our own stores, in which we can present our ideas and products using our own branding," said Whitney.

However, in the short term, Timberland will continue to expand its cooperation with other dealers.

"We will pay more attention to product design, with the overall aim of making our apparel equally suited to daily city wearing as they are to the outdoors," said Whitney.