China becomes the Testing Ground for Individualisation in the Sports Industry

Costumised Trailrunning Shoe

By guest author Lars Becker from ISPO

China is becoming a testing ground for individualization in the sports industry. The first shoe model in the trend sport Trailrunning, which can be adapted to the foot of the respective customer in the shop, was launched in Shanghai.

New trends and a new way of presentation fit together perfectly – at least the Tecnica Group thought and moved the premiere of its customizable trail running shoe to a shopping mall in Shanghai. Parallel to ISPO Shanghai, the presentation of the award-winning model at OutDoor by ISPO was streamed live all over the world from a Snow 51 shop. The viewers were able to have their personal shoes made right in the shop in a 20-minute process in which the shoes are adjusted directly to the foot.

China: Particularly Open to New Products

“That’s how we get from B2B to B2C immediately. Customer-friendly and individual. And this directly in the core market of China, where customers are particularly open to such new products,” said Remigio Brunelli, CEO of the Tecnica Group in China, explaining the special campaign. Individualization is one of the major trends in the sports industry and the gigantic China market, which is so important for the entire industry, is the perfect testing ground for it.

The ever-growing middle class in the “Middle Kingdom” with almost 1.4 billion inhabitants is discovering the value of nature especially in the huge megacities. The Chinese government’s campaigns for a cleaner environment and the sports offensive in connection with the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing also contribute to this. More than 300 million Chinese will be enthusiastic about winter and outdoor sports.

A customisable trail running shoe naturally fits the theme perfectly. Especially since the average Chinese customer is not yet as defined as in Europe and likes to experiment with new products. The supplier of the new shoes – which are available in two versions for each sex and which can also be individually adapted to the shape of the foot – uses the know-how transfer from the ski boot sector for individualisation.”Individualisation is becoming more and more important.”

Products that can be customized have long since become a trend there. “No question about it, individualization is coming and becoming more and more important. The ski industry has to rethink,” says Christian Heise, Boots Product Manager at Fischer. The market shares of small ski companies specialising in the individualisation of boards are growing steadily. Whether skiing or trail running, many customers nowadays want the perfect product for their very personal needs – a unique look and a perfect feeling of well-being in the product.

Megatrend Individualization: “The Ski Industry Must Rethink

Customisation: High Price as Brake

However, the trend towards customizing sports articles also has its limits. And, these are mainly due to the comparatively high price. The average price for individual skis is around 1,000 euros, which is significantly higher than the price for standard alpine boards. “A 3D-printed ski boot with inner shoe even costs 1,200 euros,” Heise reveals. Even the new trail running shoe, which weighs only about 300 grams, is not exactly cheap with prices in the range of EUR 200, including individualisation.

Limits of individualisation in the sports industry

“Exactly the price also restricts the expansion of individualization in the sports industry. It will definitely become the standard in the high-end segment, but there will also be cheap entry-level models without customization in the future,” says Brunelli. He expects a similar development in the future in the trail running sector and similar industries as in the ski industry in the last decade: An ever more precise customization with more and more options. “But not 100 percent individualization. For financial reasons alone,” says Brunelli.

At least in China the interest in the new, individualised products is very high. Brunelli: “Many customers here are not so committed and want to test the latest innovations.” In addition, the modern shops are designed as real experience areas. While the new, customizable trail running shoe was being introduced, people practiced skiing on the “magic carpet” next door – of course with personalized ski boots on request.

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