BEIJING: Adidas, the sportswear specialist, is adapting its approach in China, recognising the differing preferences of local shoppers to their peers from the US and Europe.

The German multinational posted revenue growth of 3%, to €1bn, in China last year, and is placing particular weight on gaining style-conscious buyers in the world's most populous nation.

More specifically, the firm is mirroring the focus on fashion, rather than sport, displayed by the Chinese target audience, according to Colin Currie, managing director, adidas Greater China.

"We have decided to put a big emphasis on the development of the adidas product line Sport Style to satisfy the fashion appetite of Chinese consumers," he told the China Daily.

Adidas' Sport Style division contains a number of brands, like adidas Originals, Neo, Y-3 and SLVER, and Currie argued differentiation should be a central driver of success.

"I think that adidas' diverse product portfolio with professional sports technologies and experience would be our major advantage to maintain leadership," he said.

Among the top introductions rolled out in China is a selection created by English designer Stella McCartney, and on sale in 15 cities.

"With a dedicated fan base, Stella has attracted a lot of women consumers to adidas and made them aware of our full range of products," Currie said.

Other such tie-ups include collections from Jeremy Scott, the American designer, on adidas Originals, and Japan's Yohji Yamamoto, with Y-3, a line aimed at youthful, affluent shoppers.

Currie suggested that adidas' reputation for offering comparatively high-end goods gives it excellent credentials to make a mark.

"I think we are already a premium sports brand with a strong sense of fashion and taste to handle competition for young consumers in China, while adidas Sport Style is now a significant contributor to the group's development," he said.

"We are quite open-minded to further cooperation with more fashion houses and designers. The partnerships are a result of understanding our consumers and how we can offer them more stylish products."

Expanding its retail network is another core objective for adidas in China, where it ran 6,712 stores by the close of 2010, measured against 5,650 in 2009.

To build on this momentum, the company hopes to open an additional 2,500 outlets going forward, prioritising many third and fourth tier cities, in which expenditure levels are rising rapidly.

This incorporates 200 extra branches representing its Neo line, already boasting approximately 600 sites across China.

NEO products are typically around half the price of alternatives in the adidas Sport Performance arm - a unit operating alongside adidas' Sports Style wing - and thus provides a point of entry.

Erich Stamminger, a member of adidas' executive board and responsible for the organisation's global brands, asserted "authenticity" constitutes an essential component of moving ahead.

"From the court to the catwalk, the stadium to the street, we are giving an authentic statement with credibility that only adidas has," he said.

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by Warc staff