Sportswear market in China: growth rate and booming trends

Shilin Song China Market Analysis

China has been a crucial market for international sportswear brands. In terms of size, the US remains the largest sportswear market, with an estimated market size of $45 billion, but the industry’s growth rate is only 2.5%. In contrast, China’s sportswear market is growing at 11% year-on-year.

In today’s article, we will look at:

  • Marketing trends for sportswear in China
  • The best marketing/advertising platform for sportswear brand
  • Sportswear top sub-categories with potential
  • Advice for foreign niche brands entering China

National-wide passion for fitness

In April 2022, 67 million Chinese people were actively using fitness APPs to work out at home. Indoor fitness became a heated topic on social media such as Douyin, Red, and Bilibili. For example, during the peak of the indoor workout trend, 4 million people were watching Will Liu’s (刘畊宏) online fitness live streaming on Douyin simultaneously, making it a sensational trend. At that time, Douyin’s daily active user size was around 5 million, meaning that approximately 80% of Douyin users were watching Liu’s fitness live stream.

Sportswear market in China Douyin

As Chinese cities gradually open up after the lockdowns, Liu’s everyday viewers decreased. However, people’s passion for fitness continued and switched to outdoor scenarios such as sports and gyms. According to QuestMobile, the daily active users of Tera Wellness (一兆韦德) has boomed by 240.2% in June, compared to the last month.

More segmented opportunity: the Female Workout Market

Unlike the stereotype that males are more into workouts, female Chinese users account for 56.2% of the active users on sports and fitness APPs, higher than the percentage of male users (43.8%).

Considering females’ growing consuming capacity, brands like Nike, Fila, Anta, and Xtep have grabbed the opportunity and designed more female-oriented campaigns:

Sportswear market in China marketing
source: QuestMobile report; WalktheChat Analysis

Sportswear brands bet on Douyin for social advertising

According to the QuestMobile report, sportswear brands spend more than half (58.1%) of their social advertising budget on Douyin Ads. It is followed by WeChat Ads (9.6%), Kuaishou (7.6%), Weibo (4.9%), and Tencent Video (4.2%).

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The online sales of sportswear brands on Douyin have been growing since this spring. As Double 11, the biggest sales festival approaches, we will keep an eye on the evolution of sales in Q4.

Sportswear market in China sales
source: QuestMobile report; WalktheChat Analysis

Top sub-categories in sportswear

Sports apparel and sports shoes are the two biggest sub-categories.

For sports apparel, t-shirts and sports pants are still the most crucial sub-categories in terms of revenue, which account for 25.2% and 21.4% respectively of the total sportswear sales. However, competition is already intense for these basic sub-categories.

Regarding growth rate, niche categories such as sports bras (+38.4%) and sports polo (51.5%) showed impressive results. Although the sales revenue of these niche categories is still small (less than 5% of the total sales), they are interesting categories to look at in the future.

Want to know more trends regarding the fitness market in China? You will find this article useful:

Suggestions for foreign niche brands entering China

Brands need to identify the sub-category with the best selling potential, then focus the marketing efforts on the selected strategy. Sports t-shirts and trousers are highly competitive categories, so brands need to think about the key selling points: Is it because of the design, such as nice color and pattern? Is it because of the functionality, such as leg-slimming or butt-lifting? Or is it because of any emotional value, such as influencer/celebrity collaboration, your unique brand story, etc?

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