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AFTER BEIJING 2008, ITALY HAS NEW REWARDS IN MIND AT ISPO CHINA 2009
Taking place six months after the Beijing Olympics will be the 2009 edition of Ispo China Winter , scheduled for 19-21 February in Beijing. It will be a great occasion for the Italian “sportsystem” industry to consolidate commercial ties with a universe that is still young but full of promise. With the 2008 Beijing games still fresh in people’s minds, it is the best time for Italian companies to strengthen their position in a market increasingly interested in sports products (clothing as well as equipment). Another motivation is the expanding mid-to-high bracket of the Chinese population, a privileged target for top-end Italian products.
China is still only a potential market, but the interest local consumers have for Italian products just gets stronger. Although dating back to 2005, the success of “Gallery Play Italia”, a pseudo hall of fame of products associated with the success of great sports champions organized by the Assosport trade association, still lingers on. The event was attended by 20 thousand Chinese people who queued up to admire Roberto Baggio’s boots, Valentino Rossi’s tracksuit, Hermann Mayer’s glasses, Bjorn Borg’s tennis outfit and Miguel Indurain’s bicycle. Famous items are not however the only things that the Chinese appreciate: even the most niche products such as ski helmets are positively associated with the “Italian Style”. In the first nine months of 2008, the export of Italian sports goods to China has for that matter increased by an annual rate of 27% (source: the Italian Trade Commission).
The Ispo China Winter, now in its fourth year, is therefore a strategic occasion to further promote one of Italy’s leading industries: the “sportsystem” accounts for 750 companies, 30 thousand direct employees and a turnover of around 11 billion Euros. 70% of the manufactured goods are for export. The Italian Trade Commission has organized, together with Assosport, the collective participation of Italian companies at the Beijing event, with the aim to further stimulate public interest in China. Companies thereby hope to acquire more contacts and partnerships than in previous years.
One statistic proves the great potential of future demand: less than a decade ago there were little more than 100 million people practicing sport in China (and 129.4 million in 2001). Euro Asia Consulting estimated however that this figure was nearer 500 million at the end of 2008. In 2008 the market, powered by increasing demand, was worth around 60 billion dollars – up 112.1% on 2001. Foreign companies do not of course have an easy ride: the Chinese sports goods market has its own quirks, there isn’t a proper distribution network in place, the “fitting” measurements are different to those in Europe, and the territory is so vast that it can be difficult to determine the correct commercial arrangements. The Italian companies however, often small or medium-sized ones “toughened up” by the recent challenges of global competition, have all the right cards for promoting not only prestigious, consolidated brands but also niche products enhanced by an ever stronger drive for innovation and intended chiefly for the mid-to-top reaches of the market. The quality and exclusivity of these Italian products, in the meantime, always remain at the forefront.