Reebok plans 500 stores in China, 50 this year alone

Some of the Greater China Reebok team at Reebok HQ!

Adidas AG's Reebok brand, which is into fitness and lifestyle footwear, apparel and equipment, is planning to open 500 stores in China by 2020.

Reebok's retail distribution network has forged a collaboration with its new retail partner, Belle International Holdings Ltd, a leading footwear retailer in China. Reebok is scheduled to open 50 stores this year.

In the past few months, Reebok has opened seven stores in Wuhan, Qingdao, Hangzhou and other places. A new store in Beijing opened in January 2017, according to Reebok executives.

"For a fitness brand, there is no better country to invest in right now than China," said Chad Wittman, general manager of Reebok Greater China.

"We've spent a lot of time and energy putting together a China strategy that meets the specific needs of Chinese consumers in terms of product, messaging and experiences."

The brand has repositioned itself by focusing on fitness, which is an 80-billion-euro (S$120 billion) market globally according to Reebok. "In China, consumers want to do fitness activities to be more healthy and more successful. There are lots of opportunities to offer Chinese consumers a better life through fitness activities," said Wittman.

"Reebok is bringing the lessons of its global success to China, where the market for fitness products is growing fast. In addition to its global product range of fitness apparel, footwear and equipment, Reebok plans to design and make some of its products in China to meet the specific needs of Chinese consumers," said Matthew O'Toole, president of Reebok, during his trip to Beijing on Tuesday.

The brand is focused on three key categories: running, training and classics. Running will be a key category for Reebok this year given its unprecedented surge in popularity in China in recent years.

According to Adidas' 2016 annual report, Reebok has been growing slower than the competition in recent years, especially in the United States. The brand's profitability is significantly below the company's average. "We've developed a plan as to how we want to unlock the brand's full potential," said Kasper Rorsted, CEO of Adidas.

Adam Zhang, founder of Key-Solution Sports Consultancy, said the time is just right for Reebok to enter the fitness market in China as the segment is growing with a variety of gyms and innovative training programs.

"Challenge also remains as competition is intensifying among local sportswear producers," said Zhang, citing Li Ning Co Ltd's expansion into the segment of female fitness products.