Marathon fever has swept across China in recent years; in 2015, over 330,000 people registered for marathons in China’s tier-one cities, for which there were only 120,000 places. The number has grown again in 2016.
It is the affluent, educated Chinese population that is becoming more involved in mass participation sports—of the entrants to the marathon, 24% held a master’s degree or above, and 36% were in middle or senior management positions. This certainly reflects great opportunities for businesses in the sports sector.
The middle-class Chinese consumer now has far greater demand for lifestyle, health and wellbeing brands. They are a savvy well-traveled customer, with high brand awareness, opening up the market to more niche brands together with the mainstream international brands.
Nike and Adidas have long been dominant players in the sports market in China with over 7,500 and 5,000 stores, respectively. Both are currently experiencing massive year-on-year growth of over 25% and 15%, respectively, with China as their key international market.
Both brands have also been expanding their category stores more rapidly, such as Adidas Originals, Neo, Adidas Women, and most recently Adidas Youth, and Nike, with the likes of Kicks Lounge and Nike Women, as consumers demand more specialised products in the different segments.
Under Armour entered the market in 2013 through a concept store focusing on immersive multimedia to demonstrate Under Armour’s innovative benefits, and is now also seeing rapid expansion with up to 75 new stores opening in China this year including flagships, or “Brand Houses” in both Shanghai and Beijing’s key high streets. China is the brand’s second-largest controlled market.
Success of these world-players has also been mirrored by the likes of New Balance, Asics, Puma, Arc’tyrx and Lululemon all opening flagship stores in China within 2016. Niche, specialised sports stores such as Lorna Jane from Australia are now also eyeing the market to take part in China’s well-being movement, which also appears to have a flow on effect on the growth and specialisation of fitness concepts and food and beverage.
Some developers are already attune to this movement, creating developments specifically catering to health and wellbeing such as Anken Green in Shanghai, committed to the implementation and promotion of energy efficient practices, housing office tenants with the same values, including retailers such as Reebok Crossfit MeWellness, Aboro Boxing, Be Cycle and Lizzy’s All Natural.
With new wellness-focused retailers and fitness centres flowing into China, we see the trend continuing.
Rebecca Tibbott joined CBRE in mid-2016 as Head of Retail Tenant Representation for China. Her key focus is to assist retailers to identify the best market entry strategy and/or expand throughout China, securing optimal locations at the right commercial terms. She has vast experience with both international and local retailers from all segments of retail: fashion, entertainment, lifestyle and food & beverage.