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    China, international brands slug it out as down apparel embraces fashion, innovation

    ANN/CHINA DAILY – Cold snaps in northern and western China have boosted sales of down apparel, with major Chinese brands competing with international ones in terms of quality and innovations in the midrange and high-end categories.

    According to the National Climate Centre, temperatures between December and March next year in many areas of northern and western China are forecast to be lower than the same period of the prior year.

    There are more rounds of extreme cold weather in southern China as well this winter than the previous season of last year.

    This has heated up the down garment market, with the younger generation’s rising interest in outdoor activities further spurring sales.

    According to the China National Garment Association, the down apparel market in China was valued at CNY156.2 billion (USD22.35 billion) in 2021 and is estimated to reach CNY162.2 billion this year.

    Its annual average growth rate between 2016 and 2021 was 12.7 per cent, higher than that of the overall clothing market.

    Huaon.com, a research unit, said in its report on the down apparel market’s prospects in China between 2019 and 2025 that the penetration rate of the down jacket segment in China is less than 10 per cent, much lower than 70 per cent in Japan and 35 per cent in the European and US markets, suggesting more market potential in the years to come.

    Meanwhile, the new national standard for down apparel took effect in April. This included measures to optimise the production and quality to make the industry more integrated with the international market.

    A prospective customer tries on down apparel at a Bosideng store at the Mixc, a shopping centre in China. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

    Under the new standard, lower-quality products will not be allowed to get into the market, facilitating the better development of established large or medium-sized brands.

    Deputy secretary-general of the garment sector of the Federation of Industry and Commerce in Jiangsu province Lu Mei said the new standard has led to a shakeup of the down apparel industry.

    “Those small and medium-sized enterprises producing lower quality down clothing will not survive due to the higher costs of better feathers and fabrics,” said Lu.

    Major domestic down apparel players have benefited from both the new standard and rising demand.

    During this year’s Double 11 shopping festival on Tmall in November, Bosideng International Holdings Ltd, the leading domestic down apparel producer, ranked tops with sales exceeding CNY100 million in the first 10 minutes of the sale.

    According to Mktindex, Bosideng ranked first under the Tmall female clothing category, grossing sales of CNY60.7 million and an average transaction worth CNY1,540 during the shopping festival.

    In the first six months to September 30 of its fiscal year, Bosideng group generated a revenue of CNY6.18 billion, up 14.1 per cent year-on-year, with profit increasing 15 per cent.

    During the period, the revenue of its down apparel business segment, including the Bosideng brand, increased by 10.2 per cent year-on-year to about CNY3.86 billion.

    International brands have continued to dominate the midrange and high-end sectors of the market. The Winter Olympic Games in the early part of this year brought Lululemon Athletica Inc’s down clothing to consumers in China.

    During the opening ceremony, the Canadian delegation entered the stadium wearing the brand.

    Vivi Sun, a marketing executive in Beijing, bought Lululemon’s down jackets immediately after watching the opening ceremony and has since become a regular visitor to Lululemon stores in Beijing.

    “The brand has become a phenomenon,” said Sun. “It used to be known among my friends who practice yoga. Now it has become a mainstream brand and a frequent shopping destination.”

    Lululemon this year has added winter clothing and facility lines to help runners and those “on the move” to keep warm during the winter.

    Oscar Wu, a veteran runner who took part in the Beijing Marathon this year, said during winter training, he focusses on facilities to make sure running keeps him warm.

    And apparel that is wind-proof, with lighter and drier functions, can improve his athletic performance.

    For the first time, Lululemon has developed the Wunder puff jacket for male consumers such as Wu this winter.

    Moreover, Moose Knuckles has quickened its expansion in China by adding new brick-and-mortar stores in the country.

    China has become the largest market for Canada Goose despite the decline in sales in its Asia-Pacific region in the second quarter of this year. Moncler opened a new flagship store in Beijing recently.

    To appeal to environmentally conscious younger Chinese consumers, Italian brand Max Mara said it has introduced its coats in a responsible fashion, ensuring their production has less impact on the environment, as they are made from fiber obtained from the natural combing of camel hair and mixed with recycled polyester fiber to form a highly insulating and high-performance padding.

    With the recent emergence of outdoor camping and frisbee activities, outdoor down jackets as sportswear have emerged increasingly popular, with down clothing for skiing and mountain climbing becoming something of a fashion.

    Domestic brands have strengthened their investments in innovation to catch up with their foreign rivals to cash in on the rising market potential. Bosideng has developed light down apparel that strikes a balance between warmth and comfort while the wearer is on the move. Lighter weight and more accurate warming technology mark the various positions of the jacket.

    Its innovations in light down apparel brands are helpful in extending the sales peak season, making its products easily marketable in southern China and among the younger generation of consumers, Bosideng said.

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