In the year 2012, Chinese sportswear brands including Anta, Li-Ning, PEAK and 361°had to close some stores to help ease the crisis caused by an inventory glut.
“Refusing to change means death. There was a distance between customers and us because we had been the wholesaler. So, there is no hesitation to make a change.” Recalled Ding Shizhong, Chairman and CEO of Anta Sports.
Since then, Ding has started to concentrate on the ‘user experience’, with the end goal of rebranding Anta from a wholesaler into a direct-to-consumer retailer. This means many changes for Anta Sports.
To keep up the pace with the ever-changing market, Ding has even adapted the number of ordering meetings from 4 to 6 every year. “We have to change our role to share the burden with our distributors because if they cannot sell anything, it will mean a disaster for us that season,” Ding said. At the same, Anta also uses the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system in all of its stores, allowing the brand to respond to customers’ tastes.
According to a China Daily report, the Chinese sportswear brand, which went public in 1997, has exceeded US$9 billion, nearly six times its initial market value. Ding contributes their success to its ‘Single-focus, Multi-brand and Omni-channel’ Strategy.
First, in terms of the Single-focus strategy, Anta sees sportswear as its main market, committed to producing professional sports products to improve customer loyalty.
Early in 2005, Anta established its first national-recognized enterprise technology center in the Chinese sports goods industry, which let the firm collect data about feet shape of thousands of Chinese consumers. Anta also increased its R&D fee from 1% to 5.8% of the total expense budget, contributing dozens of self-developed patents each year.
In March 2017, the company launched a customizable ANTAUni service, allowing customers to receive their unique shoes after ordering within 30 days. As Ding said in the Growing of the Great Brand show on CCTV, “We need to make the right products. I think our Single-focus strategy aims to provide satisfactory products for consumers.”
“There may be many reasons why a brand failed to make a difference, but it is almost certain that if a brand doesn’t understand their target consumers, then it cannot provide valuable services for them.”
Second, Anta wishes to meet the diversified demands of customers through the Multi-brand strategy. The brand seems interested in all segments of the sportswear industry, from mass to high-end consumers, from adults to kids markets and from professional to public business.
It has included ANTA, ANTA KIDS, FILA, FILA KIDS, DESCENTE, KOLON SPORT, Kingkow and NBA brands into its marketing portfolio. Especially, some critics have shown worries over Anta, when it decided to purchase the stagnant business FILA from the footwear producer Belle in 2009. However, by August 2016, FILA reported a 20% of the Group revenue in the first half that year.
As Ding said, “We cannot keep up with Nike or Adidas only by a single brand, so the Multi-brand strategy will give us more opportunities.”
Third, Anta has also adopted the Omni-channel strategy, combining street stores, shops in shopping malls and department stores, outlet stores and online shops on e-commerce platforms. This has made Anta better able to reach target consumers of their commercial partners.
Ding also commented: “We want to become an international brand like Anta, instead of the Chinese version of Nike.” To grow its international presence, Anta has launched overseas offices, R&D centers and design workshops as well as selling its products to Southeast Asian markets, BRIC countries and America.
Meanwhile, Anta has increased its international image through bold sports sponsorship, including the London 2012 Olympics, the Rio 2016 and the Beijing 2022.
At the 10th anniversary of going public at Hong Kong this year, Anta kicked off the ‘Thriving Welfare Program’, announcing that they would make a heavy investment in youth and sports welfare in the next 10 years. It aims to help over 10 million teenagers to experience the joy of sports in the 79.6-million-yuan project.
In conclusion, the established marketing strategy, sports sponsorships and welfare investments will give the Chinese sportswear brand more commercial opportunities in the international market.
Proofread by William Logsdon