Sports Shoe and Sneakers are Trendy in China: How to Launch your Brand There?

nike sports shoe picture

There is no doubt that sports shoes and sneakers are trendy in China. But what if your brand is not one of the big sportswear names like Nike or Adidas? How do you go about launching your brand in this lucrative market? In this article, we will give you some tips on how to make your brand successful in China.

Athletic Footwear in China: a quickly growing market

Chinese consumers are ready to spend some bucks when it comes to sports. In 2021, the average price per pair amounted to US$111!

In terms of revenue, china’s athletic footwear is second to none but the USA, far ahead of any other market, and the gap is pretty close in 2021:

  • USA: US$15,93bn
  • China: US$14,72bn

The Revenue in the Athletic Footwear segment has reached US$14.72bn in 2021 compared to US$10.32bn in the previous years. The segment is expected to reach 21.36bn by the year 2025; A 13.21% CAGR between 2022 and 2025.

china sports shoe revenue 2014-2025

In terms of selling channel, online sales dominated the segment in 2021 with 50.6% of marketing, but we are already seeing a shift with a regain of offline sales in 2022 expressing the absolute need for brands to opt for a smart O2O (online to offline) strategy in China.

What is driving the chinese sports shoe market?

There are several factors driving the growth of the sports shoe market in China. Let’s have a look

Confort, style and convienience

The country has a growing middle class with more disposable income to spend on luxury items like designer sneakers. Chinese consumers are becoming more brand-conscious and willing to pay premium prices for recognized brands. The younger generation in China is increasingly opting for a casual and comfortable lifestyle, which has boosted demand for sportswear overall. China is home to some of the world’s leading sports shoe manufacturers, such as ANTA and Li-Ning, which have helped consumer awareness and accessibility to branded sports shoes.

Sports events

Major sports events, such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup, have a significant impact on sales of sports shoes.

The Olympics have a particularly large impact on sales because they generate a great deal of publicity and excitement around sporting events. In addition, many Chinese consumers purchase sports shoes in order to show their support for the Chinese team.

Healthy Lifestyle

The demand for personal fitness is on the rise, and people are spending more than ever before to participate in sports-related activities. We can see this trend happening across China with runners galore bustling through downtown streets as well as Fitness Gym sellers pushing their product hard every day of the week.

China Sports Shoe Competiton Landscape

The major oversea brands selling sports shoes in China are Nike and Adidas. These 2 companies hold a significant amount of market share for athletic apparel products among other international companies that have been established over time. They focus on the mid to high-end consumer markets.

China’s domestic brands focus on the second and third-tier cities, occupying a medium-end market with fierce competition. Li Ning (李宁), Xtep(特步) 361°and Peak are all very close in terms of market share. In recent years, they have become more prevalent in 1st tier Chinese cities, challenging the international leaders.

The market is expected to become more segmented, giving companies in the Chinese athletic footwear segment a scope for targeting additional niches and sub-categories. An example of this is hiking shies, with hiking having become widely popular across the mainland

The footwear industry has been investing heavily in its technological resources, with a focus on innovation. The goal is to remain competitive and refine production techniques so they can provide high-quality products for customers at all times

The Chinese footwear market is still dominated by domestically made products, but many international brands have seen steady growth fueled by the increase in consumers’ disposable income and desire for consumption.

Lining on Douyin - chinese social media
Lining on Douyin

The intensity of competition in China is increasing, and for many international brands that are already well-established in the country’s market there has been an increased focus by local companies on developing their own brand equity so they can compete more effectively

Best Way to Sell your Sport Shoe brand in China

There are a few ways to sell your sports shoes in China.

  1. Open your own store
  2. Sell through a distribution network
  3. Sell Online through a Chinese eCommerce platform

It’s important to research the market and make sure you have a good understanding of the competitive landscape before making any decisions. Also, it’s important to factor in the cost of doing business in China and ensures that your margins will be high enough to make it worthwhile.

Open your own store: brand outlet

The leading footwear retail channels in China are department stores and large shopping malls. The implementation costs of a physical store in large shopping malls are significant, but it helps to increase the brand’s exposure and image before Chinese consumers.

Specialty shops are now a common sight on the mainland, and many companies have been opting for this channel. The competition here can be quite tough as well but if one has their reputation then they will attract more people who want what those stores offer!

Sell through a Chinese distribution network

There are a few key benefits of building a distribution network to sell in China:
  1. For one, distributors typically have well-developed relationships with retailers, which can make it easier to get your products on store shelves.
  2. Additionally, they may also be able to provide valuable insights into the Chinese market and how best to sell your shoes there.
  3. Finally, working with a distributor can help to ensure that your products meet all required safety and quality standards before entering the Chinese market.
There are a few challenges when working with distributors to sell shoes in China.
  1. One challenge is finding reliable distributors who can consistently provide good quality products and services.
  2. Another challenge is managing inventory and ensuring that there is enough stock to meet customer demand. It is also important to build good relationships with distributors so that they understand your brand and what you are trying to achieve in the market.
  3. Finally, it is crucial to monitor sales carefully and track customer feedback in order to continually improve the product and the distribution process.

Sell Online through a Chinese eCommerce platform

With increasing Internet penetration and a growing middle class, there is incredible potential for e-commerce growth in China. In fact, e-commerce shopping in China has become the mainstream and a channel that brands do not want to skip

Nike on WeChat

Furthermore, in 2021, as we mentioned earlier, online channels were the leading channel for retail sales of sports shoes in China.

Within the Chinese eCommerce realm, Tmall and JD are the most popular platforms but there are a variety of other platforms that are gaining traction such as Pinduoduo, Xiaohongshu, WeChat e-commerce, and so on.

Now, whatever, your choice will be (and you may even go for the 3 selling methods), brand awareness and reputation are going to be key.

Market your sports shoe brand in China

There are a few key reasons why building strong brand awareness through digital marketing is so important in China.

  • First, Chinese consumers are highly brand-conscious and often prefer well-known international brands over domestic brands.
  • Second, the Chinese market is extremely competitive, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to stand out from the crowd.
  • And third, Chinese consumers are increasingly skeptical of advertising and other marketing messages, so building a strong brand that they can trust is essential for success.

What are the online channels you can use to promote a sports shoe brand in China?

You can use a number of online channels to promote a sports shoe brand in China, including social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat, Search engines like Baidu, forums like Zhihu

  • Chinese Social media platforms are great for amplifying marketing messages and building relationships with customers. Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat have especially high usage rates, so they offer great potential for brands looking to reach Chinese consumers.
  • Search engines like Baidu are perfect to work on your visibility and credibility. Baidu is where the search for a product or a brand starts. Don’t miss out on it. A brand with no visibility on Baidu loses credibility, with both direct consumers and distributors
  • Forums: Chinese consumers are notoriously skeptical of advertisements and promotions. They are much more likely to pay attention to recommendations from friends or family members, or even complete strangers than they are to listen to corporate communication. Forums are the perfect media for them to discuss products and get “genuine” peer reviews. This is where you can have an impact, through undercover marketing on these forums. Obviously, in the long run, you want ht content to be organic. Forums are great to control ORM (online reputation management)

Need help with selling your sports shoe brand in China?

Contact us, we have marketing and eCommerce solutions for your project’s success in the Chinese market! ask for a free consultation with our fashion and luxury expert

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