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China becomes major consumer in sportswear market
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Chen Chen, a 22-year-old girl in a pair of Nike sneakers and a baseball cap of the same brand, walked out of the Xuanwumen Subway Station in Beijing on August 2, the last Saturday before the 2008 Olympics.

Many young people on the city's street are dressed in casual sports wear this summer ahead of the Olympics.

"Among the 28 students in my class at college, only five did not have Nike or Adidas shoes," Chen said.

China produces 65 percent of the world's sports supplies. But many brand names began to pay more attention to China not only because it is a manufacturing center of sports supplies, but also because it has become one of the major consumers.

"Chinese people have more money to spend than before and more people developed habits of doing sports. So many of them became consumers of sports supplies, " said Xu Yang, Director of the brand management center of Anta Company, a domestic brand name of sports wear.

The China Education and Sports Supplies Association (CESSA) predicted that the Beijing Olympics will further promote Chinese people's consumption of sports supplies. It estimated that the sales volume of sports supplies in China will reach 80 billion yuan (11.4 billion U.S. dollars) in 2008. China will become the second largest market for sports supplies only next to the United States.

International brand names, such as Nike and Adidas, are trying to expand their market from Beijing and Shanghai to smaller and less populous cities. Meanwhile, domestic brand names including Lining, Anta, Tebu, Kangwei and 361 degrees are trying to expand their markets from small, middle-sized cities to big ones.

Nike has the largest share of Chinese sport supply market.

"The company's annual sales volume in China has exceeded one billion U.S. dollars. This goal was realized faster than we expected," said Nike brand president Charlie Denson. "Beijing Olympics is a perfect opportunity for us to consolidate our leading position in Chinese market."

However, Adidas, the world's second biggest sports supply company challenged the status of Nike in China by also succeeding in becoming one of top sponsors of Beijing Olympics.

Adidas has provided sports clothes to more than 600,000 members of Chinese Olympic delegation and organizing committee, and volunteers. This will greatly build up its reputation among Chinese consumers.

The company set up its first global brand center in the Sanlitun Shopping Center in early July .

"The center was meant to be a milestone of Adidas taking a larger share of the Chinese market," said President of the Adida Brand Erich Stamminger, adding that China is one of the most important markets for his company.

Although young people like Chen Chen liked international brands, older Chinese people still prefer domestic brands for their cheap prices.

"My aunt just bought a pair of shoes and some clothes of 361 degrees, and said they are very comfortable," said Chen.

Xu Yang said Anta has bigger share in the market of small and middle-sized cities than Nike and Adidas. It has also been ranking the first in the country's sports shoes market since 2001.

"Our total sales volume increased by 50 percent in the past two years. We scored more than three billion yuan (430 million U.S. dollars) last year," Xu said.

"There is still a big potential for the development of China's future sports supply market," said Zhang Heng, general manager of Sanfo Company, a Chinese brand name for outdoor supplies.

He said taking sports shoes as an example, latest statistics showed that the average possession of per capita sports shores are about two pairs for Chinese, seven for Americans and about five for Japanese. This showed that the potential for Chinese market was huge.

Statistics from CESSA showed that in 2003, the total sales volume of outdoor supplies was only 100 million yuan (14 million U.S. dollars), while the figure reached 2.6 billion (370 million U.S. dollars) in 2007.

(Xinhua News Agency August 3, 2008)

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