【China】Sportswear brands shifting attention to female market

Chinese sports brands are expected to jump on the bandwagon and shift their focus to the female products, on hopes to develop this fast growing market segmentation.

“Changes of fashion trend has shaped female consumers’ consumption habit”, said Gao Leilei, associate professor at the Department of Marketing of Hong Kong’s Chinese University. “We used to think that only men need body building. But now more and more women want to have fit body shape with firm abdominal muscles,” she said. These changes inspire the sportswear companies to shape their strategies in order to seize opportunities arose from the rising demand of female consumers.

Woman’s wear by Puma

International brands like Nike and Adidas have taken the lead and started a series of marketing campaigns on female sportswear since 2014. Nike held “Better for it” and “Fitness dance” campaigns to extend its influence in the female market. Nike said in its annual report that it received US$5.7 billion revenues from female products in 2015. In an investor conference, Nike said they planned to raise revenues from female products to US$11 billion by 2020, representing to 20 per cent of revenue from all products.

Chinese sport brands also planned to tap the potential of the female market while lagged behind international competitors. Xtep (1368), one of the five major sports brands in China, is the first and the only Chinese brand that has announced plans to enter female market with more female-focused products launching in the second half of 2017. Other four domestic brands–Anta, Li Ning PEAK and 361°– did not clearly express their plans to extend the female market but PEAK sponsored some female tennis events to expand brand influence in the female market.

Female product of Xtep2.

woman products by Xtep

Xtep said Yoga and leisure fitness products would be their development key. Wang Qin, senior researcher at Sansheng Consulting, noted that except for the competitive professional sports sector, athleisure product and products with female characteristics have tremendous development opportunities, especially in leisure sports supplies sector.

Some sports products are not only for exercise but has also become a fashion. Since comfortable and casual style is popular in recent years, many famous bloggers and celebrities add sports elements in their wearing, which has become a fashion trend among female consumers. For example, white sneakers, leggings and baseball jacket have been popular among female consumers since 2015. Boosting the attractiveness of female products, international sports brands make feature cooperation with celebrities to design more fashionable goods and sportswear. Puma signed with Rihanna and Kylie Jenner as brand creative directors in 2014.

Bjorn Gulden, the chief executive officer of Puma said their cooperation with Rihanna and Kylie Jenner in women’s series got positive feedback from the market and they will re-launch Fur Slide, a sandal by Fenty x Puma, the design of Rihanna. The operating profit of Puma in second quarter of 2016 increased 75.1 per cent.

Puma cooperate with Rihanna

Puma worked with Rihanna on the shoe design.

Wang said domestic sportswear companies did not ignore the market opportunity, but only few of them had the ability to explore the female market. “Actually, most domestic brands will wait until a pioneer has a relatively good performance. They don’t have enough techniques and funding for female products’ development”, he added.

Gao believed that the female market would have a long-term potential because women usually played the role of shoppers in a family. Also, female consumers are more likely to hang out and buy unplanned things. Due to the enhanced sense of independence in the modern society, especially in recent decades when more women have their own careers, female consumers have stronger purchase power and more wealth autonomy. Therefore, “they can afford a wider variety of products,” she said.

In order to explore the potential of female market, “improvement of the shopping experience is essential”, said Gao. Since female consumers are more likely to be affected by the recommendations of bloggers and internet celebrities, it is also important to make good use of their anchoring effects. She said in addition to the segmentation in gender wise, there also can be market segments within the female market which are divided according to the purchasing power of female consumers.

(Reporting by YAN Tianrui, Editing by SONG Ge)

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