Swiss sportswear firm Intersport enters China with plan for 100 shops

Intersport International to open as many as 100 shops over the next five years in partnership with Fujian-based New Huadu Supercenter

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 4:45am

Intersport International Corp, the world's largest multi-brand sportswear retailer, plans to open its first shop on the mainland at the end of this month, confident market headwinds will not slow its expansion in the world's second-largest economy.

The Swiss company, which has more than 5,400 shops in 42 countries, will partner with Fujian-based department store operator New Huadu Supercenter to open up to 100 large-sized sports goods stores over the next five years. The first store will be in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province.

"We are taking a cautious approach to expanding in China, considering the adverse market conditions," said Ji Tao, a deputy marketing director of Intersport Fujian.

"But we will by no means shrink our expansion plan since we are eyeing mid to long-term growth in China."

The sportswear industry in the mainland has in recent years been plagued by excessive inventory, weak consumer demand and slower economic growth.

Last year, sportswear retailers including Li Ning, Anta, Peak and Xtep shut down at least 3,000 shops across the mainland after sales fell sharply. But Intersport is confident of winning Chinese consumers' hearts.

"China's sportswear market is undergoing a transformation. Consumers are gradually turning from buying casual wear when visiting a sportswear shop to looking for professional sports goods. That's our opportunity," Ji said.

Founded in 1968, Intersport sells more than 50 brands in its shops, covering most sports, from soccer and badminton to table tennis and running. It is the world's largest distributor of Nike and Adidas products. It also sells a number of exclusive brands, including McKinley and Firefly.

Last year, the European company generated record-high sales of €10.2 billion (HK$105 billion).

Ji said only two domestic brands - Li Ning and Anta - would be seen in the company's mainland stores, with the rest from overseas.

The company's major rival in China will be French multi-brand sportswear retailer Decathlon Group, which has already established 57 stores in 25 mainland cities over the past decade.

Decathlon said earlier that it would increase its presence on the mainland to 150 stores by 2015. It also plans to build a regional headquarters in Fuzhou.

Intersport entered the Asian market in 2010 with shops in South Korea.

The company said on its website it planned to open 500 shops in Asia by 2022 with potential annual retail sales of US$1 billion. It signed a master franchise agreement with Shenzhen-listed New Huadu in March to open stores in 10 provinces.

In 2011, Gome Group, the parent company of the mainland's second-largest home appliance retailer, Gome Electrical Appliance, tried to enter the domestic sports goods market, setting up multi-brand retail chain Gome Sports.

The effort failed with the company closing its two shops a year later.