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Under Armour poised to capture growing demand for sports apparel among wealthy Chinese

Good news for Under Armour on the international front -- sports apparel and high-tech fitness gear are "the new must-haves" for wealthy Chinese consumers, a story out today says.

The Reuters story attributes growing demand for sport watches, compression leggings and other attire among that nation's elite to government promotion of sport in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Also said to be driving demand, the purchase last year of the Ironman brand by Chinese billionaire property developer Wang Jianlin and the government's decision to withdraw its one-child policy.

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"It is huge - that wellness and healthy lifestyle opportunity in the whole of China," Colin Grant, chief executive of the Hong Kong-headquartered Pure Group, an operator of gyms, yoga, retail and nutrition businesses across Asia, told Reuters. "Luxury has its challenges, but active wear is a bright spot in the industry. Some people wear it to weddings in China."

International expansion -- particularly in China -- is seen as a huge growth engine for Under Armour. The brand now gets 12 percent of its sales outside the U.S., but international sales shot up 70 percent year-over-year in the last three months of 2015.

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The sports apparel and footwear maker has a growing presence in China already. Last September, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank traveled to Asia with NBA star Stephen Curry to promote Curry's new Under Armour basketball shoe, the Curry Two.

During the tour, Under Armour opened a new, 15,000-square-foot Brand House store in downtown Shanghai. The brand now runs more than 60 stores throughout Asia.

China's growing fitness craze, the story says, has led to a huge boost in marathon and road-running races and an explosion of new stadiums and gyms being built.

In the next four years, China's sportswear market is expected to surpass it's luxury goods market, according to the report.

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lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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