Functional Sportswear and the Chinese Market
By 2025, the overall value of the sports industry in China is expected to reach RMB 5 trillion, around USD 800 billion.
At the same time, the number of people who regularly participate in sports activities will reach 500 million and the coverage of new neighborhoods with sports facilities will reach 100 percent.
In 2015, increasing consumer desire to lead healthy lifestyles and a passion for sports participation continued to spur overall market growth in the sports industry. In order to respond to the “National Fitness” initiative, local governments actively launched sports activities such as city marathons and color runs to encourage more people to participate in such events.
Sports such as skiing, hiking and yoga, which a generation ago were unheard of leisure pursuits, have become more common and accessible. People who enjoy such activities also have the means to buy the sportswear specific to those activities.
China’s sportswear market has grown quickly in the past few years. According to market research1, the country’s sportswear market grew to USD 25.3 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow to USD 43.1 billion by 2020. International sportswear brands have been moving fast to take advantage of the growing demand for sportswear.
Market Surveillance of Functional SportswearDue to ever-growing imports of sportswear into the country, China’s surveillance authorities have started to increase their spot checking of sportswear, especially for the items’ functional properties.
In 2016, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC) began to publish the China Consumer Protection Annual Report. According to the report, there were 83,400 complaints about clothing, shoes and hats in 2015, and 44,700 complaints related to quality. Some complaints were about clothing that claimed to have special functions, such as moisture absorption, quick-dry, anti-bacterial, anti-UV, while in fact they did not have any of the functions claimed for the products. According to the new Advertising Law, published on September 1 2015, it is illegal to advertise a functional property of clothing if there is no relevant performance results for that declared function.
The Shanghai Consumer Protection Committee performed comparative tests on sportswear products that were claimed quick moisture absorption and quick-drying functions2. Among the 50 selected samples, 10 samples did not meet the requirements for water absorption or quick-drying in the recommended standard: GB/T 21655.1-2008 Textiles-Evaluation of absorption and quick-drying-Part 1: Method for combination tests. According to GB/T 21655.1-2008, the functional claims for quick moisture absorption and quick dry function can only be made if the products meet the following requirements:
Table 1. Absorption and Quick-drying Testing Requirements
(before and after washing)
|Moisture Absorption1||Water Absorption Rate /%||≥200||≥100|
|Drip Diffusion Time /s||≤3||≤5|
|Wicking Height3 /mm||≥100||≥90|
|Quick-Dry2||Evaporation Rate / (g/h)||≥0.18||≥0.18|
|Water Vapor Transmission / g/(m2 • d)]||≥10,000||≥8,000|
Customs Inspections for Imported Functional Sportswear
Besides market surveillance, random checking of both import and export commodities not on the list of products requiring inspection took place between April and October 2015.The random checking involved 12 commodities which included home textiles, children's clothing, general children's clothing and functional sportswear.
A total of 6,703 batches of imported and exported goods were spot-checked. The failure rates of the inspected items are listed in Figure 13.
Similar spot checks were performed from April to October 2016. For imported functional wear, the product types that will be inspected and the tests that will be performed are shown in Table 2:
Table 2: Types of Functional Sportswear and Test Standards for 2016 spot checks
|Product description||Test Items||Test Standard|
|Moisture management clothing||Absorption and quick-drying||GB/T 21655.1-2008 , GB/T 21655.2-2009|
|UV protection clothing||UV resistance||GB/T 18830-2009|
|Antibacterial clothing||Antibacterial function||GB/T 20944.1 to 3 - 2007|
|Water resistant/ proof clothing||Water repellency/ water proof||GB/T 4745-2012, GB/T 4744-2013|
For goods declared to be unqualified, AQSIQ may request the importer to take remedial action. In future, and the imported goods will be re-examined and spot checking on similar unqualified goods in the future will be strengthened. They will notify local governments and relevant departments to develop policy measures to monitor the quality of frequently unqualified import and export goods at different ports. They will also publically publish the spot check results in order to raise consumer awareness about unqualified goods.
One of the main reasons for the high failure rate of imported functional wear in the spot-check process is due to the difference in the methods and requirements of China’s product standards compared to other international standards. China’s product standards for functional performance have different tests and requirements than other commonly used international standards. If imported goods have only been tested to commonly used international standards and not to specific China product standards they may not meet the local test requirements. To prevent loss of reputation, international brands should be sure to use the test methods and requirements of China’s product standards when selling products in the country.
New Development of Product Standard for Outdoor Sportswear – Water Resistant Garment
In addition to existing product standards, China is developing a product standard specifically for functional wear. The recently published Product Standard for Outdoor Sportswear – Water Resistant Garment is an example of a standard specifically for functional wear.
On April 25, 2016, the China Sports Goods Technical Committee of Standardization published a new product standard: GB/T 32614-2016 Outdoor Sportswear - Water Resistant Garment. This standard came into effect on November 1 2016 and includes requirements for fiber content, general product safety, physical performance and functional performance. For functional performance, the requirements are shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Functional Performance Requirements in GB/T 32614-2016
|Product||Test Items/ Method||Requirement|
||Water repellency , spray rating/ GB/T 4745
|After 3 washes||≥3|
|Water proof, hydrostatic head/ GB/T 4744||Before washing||fabric ≥50KPa, seam ≥40KPa|
|After 3 washes||fabric ≥40KPa, seam ≥30KPa|
|Water vapor transmission/ GB/T 12704.2||Before washing||≥5,000 g/ (m2 24h)|
|After 3 washes||≥4,000 g/ (m2 24h)|
|Grade 2||Water repellency, spray rating/ GB/T 4745||Before washing||≥4|
|After 3 washes||Not required|
|Water proof, hydrostatic head/ GB/T 4744||Before washing||fabric ≥30KPa, seam ≥25KPa|
|After 3 washes||fabric ≥20KPa, seam ≥15KPa|
|Water vapor transmission/ GB/T 12704.2||Before washing||≥3,000 g/ (m2 24h)
|After 3 washes||≥2,000 g/ (m2 24h)|
Products must be evaluated for the above performance before and after washing. The Grade must be claimed on the product label. If it is not claimed, the Grade I requirement should be met. GB/T 32614 does not have a period of transition. When an importer chooses to use this product standard, the product must meet the requirements in the standard. Thus, brands need to study the standards carefully and pay attention to the functional requirements.
In China, favorable policies and measures have promoted the entire sports industry and encourage people to participate in sport activities that will result in consumers increasing their expenditure on sports goods. The sportswear market in China will undoubtedly benefit from these initiatives and the market growth will continue. At the same time, Chinese consumers’ awareness of functional properties has been raised. It is expected that China’s authorities will extend market surveillance spot-checking for sportswear to more locations. In addition, more product standards will be updated and developed to monitor the quality of functional sportswear.
For these reasons, functional sportswear sold in China must now meet not only general mandatory safety, labeling and quality requirements, but also functional performance requirements. International sportswear brands should understand the specific functional performance requirements in China’s national product standards and any other applicable requirements on functional performance, and ensure their products meet them.
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Karen E. Kyllo, Ph.D.
Deputy Vice President, Global Softlines
SGS North America Inc.
t: +1 973 461 7934