Trade of Sporting Goods in China is Booming—also Thanks to Western Brands

If you're looking for Adidas products in Shanghai, you're spoiled for choice: on its website, Adidas lists around 45 flagship stores (including originals and outlets) in the metropolis of 24 million inhabitants. The city's main shopping street, Nanjing Road, features some of the most popular stores—along with Adidas also Nike, Air Jordan, and New Balance.

Trade of Sporting Goods in China is Booming—also Thanks to Western Brands

The Chinese love European or U.S. brands, and they must certainly not be fake products. The items of Western brands are lifestyle products in China. Sporting goods also fall into this category and, according to Intersport International, about half of the population is buying products such as sneakers, sports shirts with big logo prints, basketball or jogging pants. That's about 700 million Chinese. The growing middle class—which currently counts more than 100 million citizens in China—is playing a particularly important role in this. Overall, the turnover of the Chinese sporting goods industry is continuously increasing. Experts project revenues to grow to USD 460 billion by 2020.

This sales volume is primarily realized in monobrand stores, which also applies to online sales. On the leading shopping platform Tmall, which belongs to the Alibaba Group, each brand has its own online flagship store. If Western companies want to be successful in China, they cannot ignore online commerce: the country is the largest e-commerce market in the world. According to the E-Commerce Foundation, B2C sales in China in 2017 were at USD 682 billion, and still rising. No matter which source is referenced, growth rates and forecasts are reliably in the double-digit range. Looking at the sporting goods business, Western brands take the leading role here as well: on the Tmall shopping platform, Nike is the sporting goods manufacturer with the highest sales, ahead of Adidas, New Balance and Decathlon.

However, not only the industry giants are successful in the Chinese e-commerce market. For example, the outdoor shoe expert Lowa, the fitness brand Lorna Jane or the outdoor sportswear and equipment manufacturer Marmot are very successful in running a Tmall monobrand store.

Just how international the sports and lifestyle articles business in China is has been illustrated at ISPO Beijing and ISPO Shanghai. A large delegation from German football Bundesliga club Schalke 04 was seen walking the aisles there, as well as innovation managers and recruiters of major sporting goods companies. The exhibition booths feature a mix of local brands such as the hip EDCO brand, whose founder has been working for Nike for many years, and internationally successful brands such as Umbro, Patagonia or Lorna Jane.

Messe München Chairman and CEO Klaus Dittrich believes that China is also the sporting goods market of the future: “the passion for sports has arrived in China.”