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Selling cheer of outdoors online

By Zheng Yiran | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-17 08:24

Mammut Sports Group AG, the Swiss producer of premium mountaineering and outdoor products, is making fresh inroads into the China market through online channels.

In May, it forged a cooperation agreement with online marketplace covering e-commerce, wholesale deals and travel packages.

From selling via wholesale and retail channels, Mammut has graduated to selling on online marketplaces such as Alibaba's Tmall, JD and Amazon.

That strategy is in line with a report from Amazon China and Mafengwo, an online travel guide, that the segment of outdoor sports has become a new consumption hot spot in Chinese e-commerce.

Intelligence Research Group, a domestic agency, estimates that the emerging outdoor sports segment will post steady growth in China in the coming three to five years.

There are already signs of that. With consumers' enthusiasm for winter sports growing, sales of ski equipment doubled year-on-year in 2016.

Mammut may want to take some credit for the trend. Every year, it takes Chinese outdoor enthusiasts to Switzerland on a sevenday trip. The adventure offers a memorable experience in mountaineering and hiking, bringing people closer to nature.

Mammut is now promoting this program with JD and Sanfo Outdoor Product Co Ltd.

Oliver Pabst, CEO of Mammut, and Richard Liu Qiangdong, chairman and CEO of JD, said the sports market, especially the outdoor market in China, is growing past its childhood stage.

"The outdoor market is growing at a rate that's above the global standard," said Pabst.

The outdoor market in China clocked $3.42 billion in sales in 2016, up 4.91 percent year-on-year.

Since Mammut aims to be one of the top five outdoor brands in China, it entered the local market in 2013.

Pabst is positive about the move. "Actually, Mammut entered China a bit late. The local market is continuously growing. In addition, the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing will likely further boost the market as well as people's enthusiasm for skiing."

So, the Swiss firm, which was founded in 1862, is eyeing the ski sports market. "Last year has witnessed exponential growth in the winter sports industry in China. There is huge potential in the market," said Pabst.

To exploit that potential, Mammut is offering both contemporary and innovative designs of premium winter sports equipment. Besides, its Mammut Alpine School teaches Chinese people how to ski and how to be safe in the snow.

Pabst said: "We're determined to find our own way to tap into the market. We'll first observe and listen to the market and then adapt our strategies.

"I'm impressed by the recent changes in China. The nation experienced robust economic growth and there is a strong trend of people enjoying nature. Besides, the government is investing in nature and the ecological system."

Having studied such changes, Mammut set up its Asia-Pacific office in Hong Kong in January. After months of efforts, it sharpened its focus on Asia, especially China. It expanded its core team in China and created some important positions in its organization.

Looking ahead, Pabst said e-commerce will be more dominant in China than in other markets of the world because of its huge population. "I think China's e-commerce will soon surpass that of the United States."

But, while heavy traffic jams make urban consumers' visits to shopping centers cumbersome, very high rentals make brick-and-mortar retail outlets in cities expensive to operate for merchants.

So, it is more efficient to sell products online, said Pabst. "I truly believe in digital and e-commerce. I'm very positive about the e-commerce market in China, and eager to develop the market."

Mammut will nevertheless invest in offline stores as well because they can provide consumers with the history and stories about the brand, and enrich consumers' shopping experience, he said.

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