With Chinese consumers adopting a more active lifestyle, the nascent outdoors market may be another growth area for retail in the world’s second-largest economy.
That’s good news for Canada’s Arc’teryx. Known for technical innovations in climbing, skiing and alpine apparel and gear, the Vancouver-based outerwear and equipment manufacturer first took its products into China 15 years ago.
“We reached the conclusion that China will be an important building block for the entire global company,” said William Yang, Arc’teryx’s Outdoor Sports senior sales manager for the Chinese market.
In 2012, the company took the reins back from its Chinese distributor and began to oversee its own China operations, rolling out multiple sales channels and directly managing consumer engagement. The launch of a flagship store on Alibaba’s B2C shopping site, Tmall, a year later was one of them.
Tmall has since remained a key Chinese e-commerce platform where Arc’teryx sells to Chinese shoppers rather than through a wholesaler. The flagship store offers the widest range of items available in the country — about 500 different SKUs a year. In addition to engaging its target consumers — the growing Chinese middle class — it also has been an opportunity for Arc’teryx to learn about the changing demands and purchasing behaviours of China’s younger generation.
Today, China is the fastest-growing market for the Canadian brand, and its third most important country after Canada and the U.S. Last year, the brand’s Tmall sales soared 80 percent, outpacing the 20 percent year-on-year growth in outdoor apparel and 40 percent increase in outdoors equipment seen on Tmall as a whole.
Tmall is also a “brand hub” where Arc’teryx can tell its story to the 500 million users on Alibaba’s platforms. When it comes to consumer engagement, Alibaba’s platforms provide them with a comprehensive set of digital-branding tools.
On top of several keyword-search marketing tools available on Tmall, Arc’teryx works with Alibaba to jointly design targeted branding campaigns.
The company also has been leveraging Tmall’s latest branding service, Loft, which gives flagship stores an additional section on the webpage to display branded images or videos.