According to the latest report published by the China Outdoor Commerce Alliance (Coca), total retail sales of outdoor products in China grew by 10.51 percent to 22.19 billion yuan renminbi (€3.01bn-$3.43bn) in 2015. Wholesale trade also improved by 12.22 percent to hit RMB 12.31 billion (€1.67bn-$1.90bn) for the year.
All signs point to a Chinese outdoor sports retail market on its way to normalcy, with slowing but moderate growth, as compared to the 30 percent growth rates in the previous years. This can be attributed to factors such as falling consumer confidence due to the slowdown of the Chinese economy, realignment of brick-and-mortar retailing and increased market competition.
E-commerce saw the strongest growth in the retail market, up 50.32 percent to hit RMB 7.05 billion (€957.56m-$1.09bn) last year, representing 31.77 percent of the market's total turnover.
The Coca report, compiled with the support of Ispo Beijing and presented at the trade show by the same name a few weeks ago, noted that there were 955 brands operating in the Chinese outdoor sports sector in 2015, namely 507 homegrown brands and 448 foreign brands.
There were only 11 new market entrants – three local and eight foreign – during the course of the year, up just 1.2 percent from the previous year. Not surprisingly, foreign brands will find it harder to penetrate the Chinese market at this late stage.
Li Changfa, vice president of Coca, said that companies are not blindly expanding as they become more rational. Smaller brands as well as specialty brands are also focusing on improving the quality of their existing products to achieve product differentiation.
According to Li, the growing acceptance of outdoor sports lifestyle in China will continue to drive the demand for outdoor products. Ski and camping segments look set to lead growth in the Chinese outdoor sports sector.
Recent statistics show that the number of motorsports enthusiasts and skiers in China currently stands at more than 20 million and more than 10 million, respectively.
The latest figures from Coca also suggest a trend where outdoor sports brands are selling less through mono-brand stores in shopping malls. Rather, there is a growing number of multi-brand specialty stores across China.
The number of mono-brand shops in malls decreased for the first time last year, falling by 5.35 percent to 7,451. This trend can be attributed to the rising cost of renting space and managing shops in the larger malls, particularly in the big cities.