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Outdoor sports products at the Asia Outdoor Trade Fair in July in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. The industry has seen an annual growth rate of 40 percent in the past five years. An Xin / For China Daily
Sales of outdoor sports products such as clothing, footwear and camping products in China are expected to continue growing, as they get boosts from the increase of vehicle ownership and the popularity of outdoor activities.
In 2011, the value of retail sales of outdoor sports products in China reached 10.76 billion yuan ($1.69 billion), an increase of 50.91 percent from the previous year.
Sales reached 3.65 billion yuan in 2008, when Beijing hosted the Olympic Games, according to an industry report published by the China Outdoor Commerce Alliance.
Retail sales of outdoor products have kept an annual growth rate of more than 40 percent in the past five years. This year the growth rate is expected to slow down to 20 to 30 percent, said Zhang Heng, general manager of Sanfo Outdoor Product Co Ltd, a retailer of outdoor sports products in China.
Domestic brands' sales are now rivaling foreign brands, which used to dominate.
The number of domestic brands last year increased to 350, up 52.84 percent, while the number of foreign brands is 367, an increase of 12.92 percent.
The outdoor sports industry has tremendous potential, Zhang said. China will need at least 10 years to catch up with developed countries' level of participation in outdoor sports, he added.
His company has taken its business from being located in a shabby shop next to the east gate of Peking University to having nearly 30 retail stores in 10 major cities in only 15 years. The company sells foreign and domestic brands of various outdoor products.
Sanfo sold more than 200 million yuan worth of goods in 2011. Its revenue and profit have both increased 30 percent year-on-year.
Thanks to burgeoning demand, China has become a major emerging market for international outdoor sports brands. About 75 percent of the top foreign brands have a presence in China. Zhang said clothes brands from North America and footwear brands from Europe have so far dominated the market.
Li Changfa, COCA secretary-general, said rising incomes and vehicle ownership have given people more spare time and brought urban dwellers closer to nature.
"The increasing popularity of outdoor sports among middle-aged and even younger people reflects a change of lifestyles in China," Li said.
"Outdoor sports used to be considered crazy. But now considered as part of a healthy and positive lifestyle, something to be proud of."
Outdoor sports activities such as camping and climbing are no longer happening only in major cities.
People in second- and even third-tier cities are also experiencing outdoor adventures, as online shopping for outdoor sports products becomes an option for them, he said.
(China Daily 08/10/2012 page17)