Increasing purchasing power and rapid lifestyle changes provided a big opportunity to major athletic apparel companies to expand in the market over the past few years. The 2008 Beijing Olympics gave international and domestic companies more reasons to be optimistic about the industry segment.
However, retailers didn’t expect the quick change in people’s preferences and the fierce competition between major players. The increasing demand of more functional and casual clothing greatly threatened the demand for traditional athletic apparel. Demand for athletic apparel quickly dropped. At the same time, ‘good-looking’ financial statements of recent years disguised the potential problem of undifferentiated products. As a result, major players have had problems with high inventory numbers and over expansion of store networks. Thus, they are trying to adjust their strategies to survive the intense competition.
The following highlights the 4 athletic apparel industry trends that retailers need to be most aware of.
1 – Functional performance and style over simple athletic apparel.
Athletic apparel brands will pay more attention to functional and fashionable products. Simple athletic apparel won’t satisfy people’s needs as their standard of living continues to improve. They expect to find products that offer both functional performance and style. Therefore, the brands need to continue innovation.
2 – Better inventory management and strategic store networks.
Companies will be more rational in terms of managing inventory and building store networks. Rapid expansion has become a large risk with too much supply of products, resulting in some store closings. While mobile shopping trends have changed some of the ways consumers are looking for their products, as we discussed in the article 3 Reasons Online Shopping Won’t Kill Brick ‘n Mortar in-store shopping isn’t dead, it’s just changing dramatically, which means successful apparel retailers will need to adjust their strategies more frequently.
3 – Even more product differentiation.
Major players, especially domestic players, will build clearer brand images to differentiate their products from other brands. Many companies expanded quickly and tried to enter as many markets as possible. As a result, they ignored their brand position and the undifferentiated products greatly affected sales performance. Successful brands will spend more time clearly defining what they represent and what they offer.
4 – Kidswear playing a bigger role in sales.
Kidswear might further contribute to the athletic apparel industry. Kidswear only made up 5% of the industry at the end of 20121. More children will participate in sports as income and health awareness levels increase. Some major players like Anta and Xtep have already opened kidswear stores to relieve some of the pressure from the existing athletic apparel industry challenges.
Fueling growth with continuous investment towards opening new stores doesn’t work as well in China anymore. Companies need to manage their store networks more seriously and increase their competitive advantage with regard to market demands and their brands’ own strengths. The development of the market’s athletic apparel industry requires more rationality, strategic product development, and precise marketing plans.
China Athletic Apparel and Footwear Industry Outlook to 2017, Ken Research. February 2013.