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Sports, wellness trends

propel strong value rise

Brands leverage surge in Chinese national pride

Despite the COVI-19 shutdown of stores and the cancellation of sports events, including the Tokyo Olympics, the athleisure brands drove a 23 percent increase in the apparel category. Anta was among the Top 10 Risers, the brands that appreciated most in value year-on-year, and Li-Ning reentered the BrandZ China Top 100 for the first time since 2013.

The category was expected to rebound quickly from the impact of the pandemic store closures, with sales driven by demand for athleisure clothing as people resume their routines, according to Kantar China MONITOR 2020.

Factors influencing category growth included: the growing importance of health and wellness; promotion of the Winter Olympics, Beijing 2022; the Chinese government’s development of sports stadiums and other infrastructure, and its determination to raise China’s stature in international sports as an expression of soft power. In addition, as fashion brands introduce more sports styles, athleisure becomes an affordable luxury.

Responding to the widening interest in sports, ANTA Sports Products Ltd. purchased Finnish-owned Amer Sports, whose holdings include Wilson tennis rackets, Salomon ski boots, and Arc’teryx outdoor clothing. The acquisition advances the global brand building effort of a company that began as an OEM serving Western marketers. The brand is looking to expand in Southeast Asia and is considering opportunities in the US.

Anta aims at the premium of the market and specifically targets younger consumers, particularly with its FILA Fusion athleisure sub-brand. Anta operates over 1,600company-owed FILA stores in top tier cities, along with around 10,000 Anta franchise stores in second and third tier cities. This network helps Anta support all its brands, which fit under three market segments: performance, fashion, and outdoor.

Both Li-Ning and Anta have enjoyed success in China by leveraging the recent wave of national pride. Li-Ning launched a new sub-brand called China Li-Ning. Designs for these products incorporate calligraphy and other Chinese cultural elements.

This swell of national pride was one of the factors that propelled Li-Ning’s business rebound from an earlier period when the company attempted to copy Western brand leaders. Li-Ning was featured at the New York Fashion Show. The brand enjoyed strong stock market growth, and the brand was returned to the MSCI index.