Just ten days before the upcoming Asia Outdoor show in Nanjing, Knut Jaeger, the founder and organizer of both the Chinese outdoor trade show and the Asia Bike show scheduled for October at the same place, released yesterday a few detailed figures on the Chinese market. Messe Friedrichshafen, organizer of the current OutDoor fair on Lake Constance, is one of the three shareholders in the company that organizes the two Chinese shows.

The Chinese outdoor market that he describes as “core” - comprising specialty multi-brand stores and the single-brand stores of the brands - increased to 13.2 billion yuan renminbi (€1.65bn-$2.15bn) in 2012 compared with RMB11.0 billion (€1.37bn-$1.79bn) in the previous year and the RMB7.0 billion (€872.6m-$1.79bn) in 2010.

Chinese brands generated 55.8 percent of the total retail turnover, and the rest came from foreign brands. In the previous year, the ratio between domestic and foreign was pretty much the opposite. However, the surprising change did not come from a massive jump by the local companies, but from the fact that a couple of brands that appeared to be international turned out to be Chinese. Therefore, the numbers of local and foreign brands needed to be revised by the market researchers.

According to the figures compiled, the number of brands active in the market in 2012 was a total of 617, of which 369 were foreign and 248 Chinese. That means that the number of foreign companies increased by 3.7 percent and that for domestic companies by 13.8 percent. This indicates a slowdown in the rate of increase for the number of market players compared with 2011 when they rose by 17.1 percent and 23.9 percent, respectively.

The spread of sales by product category remained largely unchanged compared with the previous year: Apparel contributed 53 percent to the total sales, footwear 24 percent, backpacks 12 percent and other equipment 11 percent.

On the retail side, the number of points of sale was again up by a hefty 43.1 percent to altogether 11,099 shops in the country offering core products. The strong growth came partly from the fact that, for the first time ever, multi-brand outdoor shops in shopping malls have been included into the report, which added 536 stores to the total. Altogether, the number of mono-brand stores in shopping centers grew again faster (+50.5 percent) than the multi-brand specialty shops outside the shopping malls (+31.2 percent). This means, however, that competition has become more and more intense since the core outdoor market grew by “only 20.1” percent in the same period.

The larger market, which is wider than “core”, i.e. spanning beyond specialty retailers and single-brand stores, is said to be by far bigger according to Jaeger and his research team. The total volume is estimated to be around RMB32.6 billion (€3.8bn-$5.2bn). This total number includes the core market with a share of 40.5 percent, the general sports brands and their related distribution channels (14.1 percent), fashion retail (19.9 percent) and the low budget and mass market (25.5 percent). The market researchers include into the low budget category the outdoor sales of Décathlon, which are estimated to represent as much as 4.89 percent of the total Chinese outdoor market.

The dynamics of China's broader sporting goods and outdoor market will be analyzed in detail in a qualitative and quantitative market research report that we expect to release early next year.