Beijing Sanfo Outdoor Products, as China's largest outdoor retailer is formally called, has just opened its biggest flagship store, spreading over 2,350 square meters, in Shanghai. It offers a more comprehensive range of products and a more interesting shopping experience than the three other stores it has in the city.

There are now a total of 38 wholly-owned Sanfo stores operating in 17 cities and 14 provinces of China, including 16 in Beijing alone. They and the company's online stores on the marketplaces of Tmall and offer more than 80,000 SKUs by more than 450 brands to more than 500,000 customers. Private-label items represent less than 5 percent of its turnover.

The new Shanghai flagship is one of seven physical stores that the company is opening this year, according to Heng Zhang, who founded the chain in 1997, as part of a 2019 investment program worth about 100 million yuan renminbi (€12.8m-$14.2m). Together with the development of e-commerce, which now represents 22 percent of Sanfo's sales, it is expected to help drive a 20 percent increase in this year's revenues.

Sanfo, which went public in 2015, reported a big increase in its turnover in 2018, when its total revenues went up to RMB 420 million (€53.8m-$59.7m) from RMB 351 million in 2017, which had seen a small decline from the previous year. The company turned around financially last year, posting an operating profit of RMB 7 million (€0.9m-$1.0m) and a net profit of RMB 5 million (€0.6m-$0.7m) as compared to negative figures for 2017.

One big investment by Sanfo last year was its acquisition of a site near Chengdu, the Squirrel Tribe Kids park, where some 1,000 children have been offered camping and other outdoor activities. Sanfo has since opened another site in Wuhan, with a parking lot for 3,000 cars, and is planning to add another one elsewhere next month.

On the other hand, Sanfo is becoming engaged in a growing number of events to support its brand and to build up a community around it. A large team of people inside the company is organizing more than 100 events in running, cycling and other sports each year that have attracted more than 200,000 participants. That includes more than 50 running and triathlon races in which some 2,000 people take part in different parts of the country as well as an annual cycling event that has been held for 20 years.