Children's sportswear category going places |

Children's sportswear category going places

By WANG ZHUOQIONG China Daily Updated: 2023-06-29
Consumers shop at outdoor lifestyle brand Beneunder's store in Shanghai in July last year. [Photo/China Daily]

The fact that more children are participating in sports and outdoor activities in China has spurred the growth of sportswear products and related apparel in the category, which focuses on technology-driven features to offer children more comfort in various sporting and physical fitness scenarios.

Christina Wang, a mother of a 6-year-old, said since last year, she has only bought clothing for her son from sportswear brands rather than from fast-fashion children's clothing brands. "I used to choose clothes for my son to make him look good," Wang said. "Now he goes to sports class three times a week. He feels more comfortable in clothes with new technologies and he looks better as well."

Wang and other Generation-Z consumers are emerging groups of young Chinese parents who have shifted their options for children's clothing to sports brands, with features and functions to boost performance or simply add comfort during kinetic activity.

According to the 2023 Child Apparel and Shoes Insight released by Tmall, consumers buying children's clothing and shoes are getting younger, mostly between 20 and 29. Women aged between 25 and 29 have purchased children's clothing about eight times per year on average, the fastest-growing age group of all consumers, the report has found.

The features of children's clothing are often required by consumers to match each sporting occasion.

"I would buy outdoor clothes for my son when he goes hiking and tennis shorts when he picks up a racket," said Wang. "The professional features are going to boost performance."

With more families going hiking, camping or mountain climbing and other outdoor activities, demand for sportswear products with specialized features for children is on a sharp rise.

Last year, the outdoor children's apparel market on Tmall saw sales of 530 million yuan ($73.3 million), an increase of 46 percent year-on-year.

In March, The North Face — a US outdoor apparel brand — opened a store in Beijing, the first children's sportswear retail facility for the brand in the country. The brick-and-mortar store has been a follow-up to its online presence for children's clothing since 2019.

In 2022, the company sold more than 100 million yuan worth of children's apparel in China, a surge of 54.7 percent compared with a year earlier.

Beneunder, a Shenzhen, Guangdong province-based outdoor lifestyle brand, has developed eight categories for children — including sunproof clothing, hats, umbrellas, sunglasses and raincoats — ranking tops in sales volume on China's major e-commerce platforms in the first four days of this year's June 18 shopping festival.

Ti Zhe, head of toddler and children's products at Balabala, a Wenzhou, Zhejiang province-based apparel brand for children aged under 15, said the outdoor sector is a great entry point for apparel producers to attract high-end consumers. The company has unveiled its high-end outdoor products for outdoor, urban travel, skiing, hiking and mountain climbing activities.

Products resistant to wind, water and mud and providing a dry fit are among the top features most popular in the children's sportswear segment. According to Tmall, sales of children's clothing with such functions grew 40 percent in China in 2022 year-on-year, with sales generated from dry fit clothing up more than 50 percent and sales featuring anti-contagion functions up 80 percent.

Special features have been added to meet demand from parents. For example, sportswear and children's clothing producers have also developed functions that help to repel mosquitos and absorb perspiration.

This year, consumers have searched a combination of keywords for children's sportswear like "sunproof", "lightweight" and "cool".

In terms of product categories, according to MarketIDX, in 2022, lightweight and sunproof jackets for children brought in revenue of 210 million yuan in China, taking up 38.9 percent of total outdoor children's clothing.

Some 80.13 million yuan was in down jackets, while revenue generated from windproof jackets was 73.3 million yuan.

The skiing and ice skating trend has boosted sales of winter apparel and gear, up 150 percent in the first half. Children's T-shirts with stay-cool features have helped raise sales and boost selling prices.