Sportswear retail scene hots up

Sportswear retail scene hots up

With growing interest among consumers in sportswear, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here are gearing up to take advantage of this.

However, local players warn that competition is hotting up.

Triple, for instance, has launched Under Armour in Singapore, while Star 360 Holdings, flush from a recent injection of funds from Temasek Holding's Heliconia Capital Management and Pavilion Capital, is looking to accelerate its expansion plans in the region and establish its presence online.

Triple, Under Armour's South-east Asian distributor, said the priority is to lay the groundwork and get Under Armour rolled out in all the countries under its purview by 2016.

The Baltimore-based brand officially opened its first outlet in South-east Asia at Orchard Gateway in May.

Michael Binger, chief executive of Triple, said: "For us, the brand is at such a sweet spot where growth really takes off. About 90 per cent of its revenue is from the United States, but it already has fairly high brand recognition among people (outside the US) who are sports fans."

Part of the reason is education, with athletes more particular about the functionality of their sportswear now.

"Sports gear needs to perform certain functionalities: be comfortable, fit your style and so on. That's why there are more niche performance brands coming up," said Mr Binger.

Non-traditional sports brands are also seeking a piece of the action. Indeed, competition has been intensifying as brands that typically occupy the fast-fashion space are jumping onto the bandwagon, said Rony Kwek, general manager at bods.bodynits.

These brands include H&M, Mango, Cotton On and Forever 21, which now boast a "sports" or "active" range.

However, having a firm foothold established in the industry helps. Mr Kwek said sales at bods.bodynits have more than doubled over the course of the year.

"In general, ladies' wear always sells better than men's wear," he said. "In terms of the type of activities, one of our largest groups of customers are those that do yoga and pilates. We have a very large following for studio wear."

Star 360 is trying to jump onto the e-commerce bandwagon. The plan, according to CEO Andy Chaw, is to be a dominant player in the online realm in the next three years.

But he added that many established, fast-moving consumer-goods manufacturers are coming to South-east Asia.

"They now realise that the region has 600 million people. They have been focusing on China, Korea and Japan," he said.

"They did so well that they realised, in order to grow, they need to come down to this region...If the import tariff is lifted in the next three to five years, it will be an open market. The competition will be very intense."

This article by The Business Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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