'She Sports' trend rings in big biz for brands

By WANG ZHUOQIONG | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-29 09:16
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Members of the Chinese national women's soccer team train in Shanghai in May. [Photo/Xinhua]

Women's demand for outdoor, fitness products on rise

Full of youthful energy, Hu Rongfeng is a sociology senior at a top university in Beijing who can bust some killer jazz dance moves as well as urban dance styles from the likes of K-pop girl bands.

Her rise to prominence was sparked by a street dance short video she uploaded on a social media platform.

In the video, Hu and a friend in the street dance community showcased seamless moves and spearheaded efforts to make street dance a mainstream activity on campus.

In 2020, the crew seized an opportunity to perform at the university's basketball finals.

"It was a major success. Students loved us. We've since become regulars at all the other sports games in the university," recalled Hu.

The popularity of K-pop and hip-hop music, along with related choreography that allows each dancer to be the center of attention, has contributed to their increasing popularity on campus. Hu, who has long dyed hair, wears loose sweaters and Nike Air Force 1 sneakers, attributes the allure of street dancing to its strong sense of belonging and also being a good form of exercise.

"One does not need to be athletic to learn street dance. You can start from scratch and still be able to nail it. Various sports have become part of daily life in universities, such as flying discs, street dancing or roller-blading," she added.

Nowadays, more young women exercise to both stay in top shape and sometimes to show off some killer dance moves online rather than simply to lose weight, she said.

Hu is one of a growing number of young Chinese women who have embraced emerging sports activities for both exercise and socializing.

Sarah Shao, a veteran coach at a gym chain in Beijing, said that over the past three years, more women have been paying attention to their own well-being and health, encouraged by the flood of information from social media and experiences from their peers.

Training including boxing, yoga, weightlifting, and balance and stability drills have become the most popular, Shao said.

"Girls come to gyms to look and feel better about themselves. They consider fitness training as a good investment and a healthy lifestyle," she said.

According to a women's fitness report released by Leoao — a Hangzhou, Zhejiang province-based gym chain with more than 1,000 sites nationwide — its female members account for 54 percent of its total members.

Participation of females is higher in Beijing, followed by Changsha, Hunan province, and Shanghai, with workout enthusiasts hitting the gym three to four times a week. They spend an hour on average working up a sweat.

A report by McKinsey & Company said there has been a rise in demand from Chinese women for sports and fitness products, with women nationwide spending 15-20 percent more on these items than men.

Recognizing this trend, sportswear giant Nike Inc has significantly increased its investment in the female physical fitness sector, committing itself to innovative products and services to serve the Chinese market.

In fiscal year 2022, revenue generated from Nike's women's lines reached $8.27 billion globally, though this was still less than a third of the brand's total revenue.

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