Sell­ing cheer of out­doors on­line

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By ZHENG YIRAN zhengyi­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Mam­mut Sports Group AG, the Swiss pro­ducer of pre­mium moun­taineer­ing and out­door prod­ucts, is mak­ing fresh in­roads into the China mar­ket through on­line chan­nels.

In May, it forged a co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment with on­line mar­ket­place JD.com cov­er­ing e-com­merce, whole­sale deals and travel pack­ages.

From sell­ing via whole­sale and re­tail chan­nels, Mam­mut has grad­u­ated to sell­ing on on­line mar­ket­places such as Alibaba’s Tmall, JD and Ama­zon.

That strat­egy is in line with a re­port from Ama­zon China and Mafengwo, an on­line travel guide, that the seg­ment of out­door sports has be­come a new con­sump­tion hot spot in Chi­nese e-com­merce.

In­tel­li­gence Re­search Group, a do­mes­tic agency, es­ti­mates that the emerg­ing out­door sports seg­ment will post steady growth in China in the com­ing three to five years.

There are al­ready signs of that. With con­sumers’ en­thu­si­asm for win­ter sports grow­ing, sales of ski equip­ment dou­bled year-on-year in 2016.

Mam­mut may want to take some credit for the trend. Ev­ery year, it takes Chi­nese out­door en­thu­si­asts to Switzer­land on a sev­en­day trip. The ad­ven­ture of­fers a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence in moun­taineer­ing and hik­ing, bring­ing peo­ple closer to na­ture.

Mam­mut is now pro­mot­ing this pro­gram with JD and Sanfo Out­door Prod­uct Co Ltd.

Oliver Pabst, CEO of Mam­mut, and Richard Liu Qiang­dong, chair­man and CEO of JD, said the sports mar­ket, es­pe­cially the out­door mar­ket in China, is grow­ing past its child­hood stage.

“The out­door mar­ket is grow­ing at a rate that’s above the global stan­dard,” said Pabst.

The out­door mar­ket in China clocked $3.42 bil­lion in sales in 2016, up 4.91 per­cent year-on-year.

Since Mam­mut aims to be one of the top five out­door brands in China, it en­tered the lo­cal mar­ket in 2013.

Pabst is pos­i­tive about the move. “Ac­tu­ally, Mam­mut en­tered China a bit late. The lo­cal mar­ket is con­tin­u­ously grow­ing. In ad­di­tion, the 2022 Win­ter Olympic Games in Bei­jing will likely fur­ther boost the mar­ket as well as peo­ple’s en­thu­si­asm for ski­ing.”

So, the Swiss firm, which was founded in 1862, is eyeing the ski sports mar­ket. “Last year has wit­nessed ex­po­nen­tial growth in the

The out­door mar­ket is grow­ing at a rate that’s above the global stan­dard.” Oliver Pabst, CEO of Mam­mut

win­ter sports in­dus­try in China. There is huge po­ten­tial in the mar­ket,” said Pabst.

To ex­ploit that po­ten­tial, Mam­mut is of­fer­ing both con­tem­po­rary and in­no­va­tive de­signs of pre­mium win­ter sports equip­ment. Be­sides, its Mam­mut Alpine School teaches Chi­nese peo­ple how to ski and how to be safe in the snow.

Pabst said: “We’re de­ter­mined to find our own way to tap into the mar­ket. We’ ll first ob­serve and lis­ten to the mar­ket and then adapt our strate­gies.

“I’m im­pressed by the re­cent changes in China. The na­tion ex­pe­ri­enced ro­bust eco­nomic growth and there is a strong trend of peo­ple en­joy­ing na­ture. Be­sides, the gov­ern­ment is in­vest­ing in na­ture and the eco­log­i­cal sys­tem.”

Hav­ing stud­ied such changes, Mam­mut set up its Asia-Pa­cific of­fice i n Hong Kong in Jan­uary. Af­ter months of ef­forts, it sharp­ened its fo­cus on Asia, es­pe­cially China. It ex­panded its core team in China and cre­ated some im­por­tant po­si­tions in its or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Look­ing ahead, Pabst said e-com­merce will be more dom­i­nant in China than in other mar­kets of the world be­cause of its huge pop­u­la­tion. “I think China’s e-com­merce will soon sur­pass that of the United States.”

But, while heavy traf­fic jams make ur­ban con­sumers’ vis­its to shop­ping cen­ters cum­ber­some, very high rentals make brick-and-mor­tar re­tail out­lets in ci­ties ex­pen­sive to op­er­ate for mer­chants.

So, it is more ef­fi­cient to sell prod­ucts on­line, said Pabst. “I truly be­lieve in dig­i­tal and e-com­merce. I’m very pos­i­tive about the e-com­merce mar­ket in China, and ea­ger to de­velop the mar­ket.”

Mam­mut will nev­er­the­less in­vest in off­line stores as well be­cause they can pro­vide con­sumers with the his­tory and sto­ries about the brand, and en­rich con­sumers’ shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, he said.

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