As women look into the mir­ror, what they see is stars

China Daily European Weekly - - Spotlight - By SUN YUANQING

Sportswear pro­duc­ers hop­ing for suc­cess in China need to tailor their wares to take ac­count of chang­ing val­ues

In China, the per­cep­tion of beauty has not tra­di­tion­ally in­cluded firm ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles, but that has changed in re­cent years with celebri­ties such as Ken­dall Jen­ner and Gigi Ha­did, who are highly in­flu­en­tial in the Chi­nese fash­ion world.

Pic­tures and sto­ries of how so­cial me­dia stars im­prove their phys­i­cal looks through sports have in­spired Chi­nese women to pur­sue sim­i­lar life­styles, and the sportswear mar­ket, once dom­i­nated by men, has be­come broader. More women are now tak­ing part in fit­ness and sports as part of their daily life.

FT Con­fi­den­tial Re­search, a Fi­nan­cial Times out­fit, found that Chi­nese women are in­creas­ingly in­volved in sports. Last year, about 90 per­cent of women said they took part in sports, com­pared with 82 per­cent in 2015, it said. The av­er­age spend­ing on sports gear in China last year was 1,141 yuan ($170; 144 eu­ros; £133) for a Chi­nese woman, and 1,081 yuan for a man.

Erick Haskell man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Un­der Ar­mour Greater China and Korea The Chi­nese fe­male con­sumer is look­ing for a prod­uct that not only per­forms but has a beau­ti­ful aes­thetic and can be worn in and out­side the gym.”

Health­ier life­style

The de­sire for a health­ier life­style has pre­sented big op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic com­pa­nies, which once re­lied mainly on menswear.

“We have dis­cov­ered that in China, fe­male con­sumers de­sire self-im­prove­ment, seek a bal­anced life­style with sports and fit­ness and pay at­ten­tion to emo­tional res­o­nance,” says Erick Haskell, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Un­der Ar­mour Greater China and Korea.

“The Chi­nese fe­male con­sumer is look­ing for a prod­uct that not only per­forms but has a beau­ti­ful aes­thetic and can be worn in and out­side the gym. With that mind, we are very fo­cused on the de­sign, style, fit and color of our women’s col­lec­tion in ad­di­tion to the per­for­mance ben­e­fits.”

The brand has ex­panded its women’s prod­uct of­fer­ing to in­clude run­ning, train­ing and stu­dio col­lec­tions. On Aug 1, it launched a global women’s cam­paign called “Un­like any”, cel­e­brat­ing “women who are be­yond com­pare”.

Adi­das opened its first store ded­i­cated to women in South Korea in 2011. In China, it has opened women’s stores in Shang­hai, Chengdu and Guangzhou, where it sells run­ning and yoga gear, the most pop­u­lar prod­ucts among fe­male shop­pers. It has also tai­lored the run­ning shoes se­ries Ul­tra Boost X for women.

Nike also has ex­pe­ri­ence stores for women. The brand worked with the Chi­nese ten­nis player Li Na for a spe­cial women’s se­ries, which in­cludes un­der­wear, train­ing vests, leg­gings, hood­ies and sweat­pants, cater­ing to var­i­ous needs. The brand opened a women’s store in Shang­hai in 2014.

For fe­male cus­tomers, vis­ual ef­fects are im­por­tant. Lu­l­ule­mon, which is known for its bright col­ors and fem­i­nine of­fer­ings, is highly pop­u­lar with fe­male cus­tomers. Last sum­mer, it held an out­door group yoga event at the Ances­tral Tem­ple in Bei­jing, which drew ex­ten­sive at­ten­tion to the la­bel. It is also a fix­ture in pop­u­lar TV dra­mas. The brand has show­rooms in Shang­hai and Bei­jing and sells through on­line plat­forms such as Tmall.

Role model

Choos­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive who can be seen as a role model for women is seen as crit­i­cal to mar­ket­ing. Un­der Ar­mour signed the Ja­panese ac­tress Masami Na­ga­sawa, and Puma works with the model and ac­tress Cara Delev­ingne and the singer Rihanna. Adi­das works with the model Kar­lie Kloss and the Chi­nese vol­ley­ball player Hui Ruoqi. Its col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Bri­tish de­signer Stella Mc­Cart­ney is gen­er­ally re­garded as highly suc­cess­ful.

Brands such as Zara, H&M, For­ever 21 and Gap are also tap­ping into the sports mar­ket with spe­cial­ized sports col­lec­tions. Af­ter fo­cus­ing on the menswear mar­ket for many years, in­dige­nous brands are now join­ing in. Li Ning and Xtep have all made plans to launch more wom­enswear prod­ucts.

Liu Xuan, China’s first Olympic cham­pion on the bal­ance beam, has opened a multi­brand store on­line, se­lect­ing sportswear from var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional brands based on her feel­ings about their func­tion­al­ity and the com­fort they of­fer.

Last year Liu, launched her own sportswear brand, Balan­pie, aimed at the wom­enswear mar­ket. It now sells yoga ap­parel and plans to sell run­ning clothes and swimwear, all tai­lored to the Asian physique.

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