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Austrian company finds China's winter sports market hot

By Zhu Lingqing | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-02-21 15:51
Austrian company finds China's winter sports market hot

Peter Schott, general manager of International Trade, HEAD International GmbH. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn] 

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics can be an extreme accelerator to bring people to the snow, said Peter Schott, general manager of International Trade, HEAD International GmbH (HEAD), a leading global manufacturer and marketer of premium sports equipment and apparel.

In November, the General Administration of Sport of China released plans on constructing winter sports infrastructure and popularizing winter sports, calling for at least 650 skating rinks and 800 ski resorts to be built across the country by 2022. About 300 million people are expected to participate in winter sports and the winter sports industry is projected to be worth one-trillion-yuan ($144.5 billion) by 2025.

While it sees no exciting growth in the well-established winter sports market in Europe, the Austrian company said it is realistic to expect that China will catch up and become the biggest ski market in the world.

In addition, the company has witnessed China's winter sports market becoming more competitive as everyone, small or big companies, is trying to tap the potential.

To tap the market, Head has partnered with Nanjing B.C. Sports Products Co Ltd (B.C. Sports) in distribution and supported actions with the aim to popularize winter sports, Schott said.

Austrian company finds China's winter sports market hot

A contestant is racing at the 8th Advantage Austria Ski Race held in Zhangjiakou's Genting Resort Secret Garden, Hebei province, on Feb 18, 2017. The race aims to intensify the cooperation between China and Austria in the areas of winter sports and lifestyle. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Peter Schott spoke to China Daily website about China's winter sports market and the Austrian company's business strategy and its plans in China at the 8th Advantage Austria Ski Race held in Zhangjiakou's Genting Resort Secret Garden, Hebei province, on Saturday.

The following are edited excerpts of the interview:

What's your assessment of China's winter sports market?

Currently, China is the most challenging market in the world. We have already seen a lot of progress and we hope the market will still expand a lot. The markets in Austria, France and Italy are not growing anymore and the potential there is steady, so we do not see growth there. We expect that China will catch up and become the biggest ski market in the world, which is a realistic expectation.

How do you align your business strategy with the Chinese market? What's unique about HEAD's competitiveness?

The first step for us was to find a distribution partner, which we did with B.C. Sports, a company that is already very active in the snow sports industry. The next step was to convince people in China that quality is the main issue to make the sports attractive. In terms of extra competitive advantages or extra features that HEAD can provide, we launched at Genting Resort Secret Garden last year our rental system, which enables the rental provider to bring the products very fast to the consumer. So it is no longer necessary to stand in line for one or two hour until you get your product. So we set an example there. We will try to spread this all over China and also provide products that help people to learn ski very quickly, because this is important as well.

How do you think the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will influence China's winter sports industry? What do you think of China's latest plan for developing winter sports?

This is extreme accelerator to bring people to the snow. Of course we are all curious up to what level this will come. A lot needs to be done in terms of investment to provide key facilities. And as far as I know, a lot is in progress and a lot is going to be invested. And of course we know that we should also think about how to bring people to snow sports, how to teach them quickly. And it is important that they remain with skiing.

Is the Chinese market becoming more competitive?

It is becoming more competitive, of course, because everybody is trying to make business here. And all the brands are already here, smaller or bigger.

What is HEAD's future plan in China?

The future plan is to support any action that is targeted at growing the winter sports. So we have already supported ski education, we have already provided the best products and we have already supported the Chinese ski foundation.

Will HEAD establish a factory in China?

We held intensive discussion last year and we really thought intensively about setting up a factory here but it is still too early. However, we still have that in mind. Maybe not establishing a major factory, but assembling ski boards as the inner parts of the ski boards are already made in China. So maybe bring the plastic parts to china and assemble them here or do some binding production here. This could be an option. It is too early to give a definite answer but we have that in mind. It is very possible in the future.

What opportunities and positive effects do you think the Belt and Road Initiative could bring to Austrian companies?

It depends on the companies. The market is here, we have a lot of knowhow that is not presented in China yet. So it really depends on the companies: how active they are and what partners they have in the market.

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