Sportmaster, the leading Russian sports retailer, is one the latest international retail companies to try and explore the Chinese market for multi-brand retailing. Suppliers based in China confirmed that they had been approached by Sportmaster buyers as the Russian group is envisaging the opening of Chinese stores, and the company itself has started an English-language website at Sportmaster.cn that gives an idea of its intentions.

Sportmaster has grown very rapidly in the last few years, opening about 350 multi-brand sports stores in 150 cities across Russia and three other countries that formerly belonged to the Soviet Union: Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. It has also started to diversify its formats with the opening of Sportmaster hypermarkets, competing more directly with Décathlon, as well as a handful of Sportmaster “pro” stores with more performance-oriented ranges.

Sportmaster's stores in Russia offer large assortments of private labels as well as international brands with which it has distribution deals, from Kettler to Columbia Sportswear and many more. Furthermore, the Sportmaster group has opened hundreds of O'Stin stores in Russia and neighboring countries, selling casual fashion products. The retailer will be sharply in focus in our upcoming market research report on the Russian sports and outdoor markets.

Sportmaster indicates on its Chinese website that it would like to set up partnerships with real estate owners and agencies to learn about available retail space in China. The Russian retailer is after locations of 1,200 to 4,000 square meters. It remains unclear whether Sportmaster would adopt the same format in China as in Russia, or when its store openings could start.

Sportmaster's interest comes as the Chinese market is drawing investment from more multi-brand retailers, including Japan's Xebio and Intersport. Sports Depot, a multi-brand sports retail chain owned by the Alpen group in Japan, opened a store in Shanghai a few weeks ago.