SHANGHAI: International sports brands Adidas and Nike have taken another step in their targeting of Chinese women by opening stores that just sell female items.

Nike recently opened only its second ever women-only store in Shanghai – the first was in California – where consumers can trial the latest training and running footwear and apparel as well as participate in group fitness sessions.

A month earlier Adidas had opened in Beijing its first store in China selling sports products solely for women and it is planning another two such stores in Chengdu.

Reporting the development, Want China Times noted that the targeting of Chinese women could be traced back four years to when Li Ning, a Chinese sportswear business, had hired a top Taiwanese model to front a campaign for female sports products.

Since then, global brands have followed suit. In 2013, for example, the Adidas Women campaign (shortlisted for this year's Warc Prize for Asian Strategy) sought to encourage young women to take up sport after research showed that just 3% of 17–24 year olds went to the gym, with most preferring to shop or sing karaoke. 

This proved so successful – on the business, behavioural and perceptual/attitudinal fronts – that Adidas Global used the campaign as a gold-standard case study.

Colin Currie, Adidas managing director/Greater China, emphasised to a conference earlier this year how challenging the Chinese market was for brands, which needed to understand that a one-size fits all approach was a recipe for failure.

"In higher-tier cities, we have to have a different go-to-market strategy, where we defend market share by fighting for consumers' share of wallet," he said. "But in the lower-tier cities, it is just about opening stores."

That was a tactic that Zhang Qing, founder of Beijing Key-solution Sports Consulting Co, suggested Chinese sports brands wanting a slice of the female market could adopt, since they were unlikely to be able to afford the rents on a store big enough to offer the same facilities as their Western rivals in tier one cities.

Data sourced from Want China Times; additional content by Warc staff