Marathon bid to lead market

Adam Main

Sports retail giant is expanding with more mainland outlets

The adidas group is fast-moving and has some of the most recognisable brands in the world - adidas, Reebok, Rockport and TaylorMade.

The Germany-based giant has been aggressively expanding its portfolio in recent years with the mainland as an integral part of its growth strategy.

The company has about 1,400 employees in the mainland and more than 3,000 retail stores selling adidas products, in addition to four business locations involved in administration, distribution and manufacturing, so it is well on track to reaching its goal of becoming China's No1 sports company.

Angel Yu, adidas Group's vice-president, human resources and administration Greater China, said in one to two years the mainland would become the company's second-largest subsidiary market after the United States.

She credited the fast business growth to expansion in lower tier cities, the opening of adidas-branded stores - nine at present, 30 by next year - the increasing personal wealth of mainlanders and that the company now offered more than just sports gear.

Being the official sponsor of the women's World Cup and an official partner and sponsor of next year's Beijing Olympic Games will further help raise the profile of the company, which is more than 80 years old.

'China is a big market, geographically. The first couple of years we were here we looked at the first-tier and second-tier cities. Now we are going deeper to the third- and fourth-tier cities [to sell our products],' Ms Yu said.

'The other is the economy. More people can now afford these products. Also, the product range is much more than what we offered before. Previously we were just sports, but now we offer fashion and this attracts another segment of consumers.'

The company has recruited about 150 people this year. It is looking to hire another 80 people with specialised talents in the areas of retail operations, retail development, brand market, product category management and key account management, among others.

Qualified candidates should be equipped with good technical skills in specific functions and should also have 'good EQ'.

If it is a managerial-level position the person should have strong people-management competencies in motivating, coaching and developing the team.

While fluency in Putonghua is a benefit, a good command of English is a must. The person should also be passionate, a good team player and achievement oriented.

The salary and benefits depend on the level of experience and the difficulty in recruiting for the position.

The company conducts a salary survey twice a year to ensure its pay scale is competitive.

The firm also encourages 'people moving' around its various operations.

The company was named China's top employer in Shanghai and Beijing this year by research firm CRF as well as one of the Best 50 Workplaces by China Staff magazine in China.

Ms Yu, a native Shanghainese, said the mainland's retail market was not very developed and that there were some great opportunities for Hong Kong talent to relocate there and share their skills.

'The exposure in [mainland] China for Hong Kong people is really a valuable experience.

'Secondly, they can bring value with them, so it is win-win. They have more opportunities in the mainland than in Hong Kong.'

She said that hiring for the company had often been difficult because adidas had a philosophy that recruiting was more than just finding people to fill jobs, but more about 'finding great people to fill great jobs'.

'Recruiting within the adidas Group is about identifying talented team players who combine skills, motivation, energy and a passion to overachieve and do what it takes to be the best.

'It is relatively easy to find technically strong people only, but more difficult to find a qualified candidate who shares the company's values and culture.'

adidas Group

A global leader in the sporting goods industry growing rapidly in the mainland

Mainland headquarters in Shanghai with branches in Beijing and Guangzhou

Manufacturing and a large distribution plant in Suzhou, Jiangsu province

adidas brand available in 3,000 mainland stores; target is 5,000 stores by 2010

Openings for retail operations, retail development, brand marketing, product category management and key account management, among others

Candidates need good technical skills in a specific function

Fluency in English required with Putonghua an asset

Focus on expansion to lower-tier cities and opening adidas-brand specific retail outlets