By Kim Tae-jong
The nation's outdoor sportswear market grew significantly last year despite the economic downturn, with major brands competing fiercely for a bigger slice of the nearly 5 trillion won market.
Ten major brands posted a total of 3.91 trillion won in sales, accounting for almost 80 percent of the local outdoor sportswear market.
North Face secured its market leadership with sales of 645 billion won, up 4.9 percent from the previous year. Kolon Sport came in second with 610 billion won in sales, a 15.09 percent year-on-year growth.
Other brands also recorded steady growth. Black Yak recorded a growth rate of 45.7 percent, posting 510 billion in sales, only slightly behind K2, whose sales stood at 550 billion won.
NEPA, Columbia and Millet also showed high growth rates of 60 percent, 24 percent and 40 percent, respectively, with sales of 400 billion, 310 billion and 280 billion won.
Of the ten brands, Eider posted the biggest growth rate at 90 percent, recording 210 billion won in sales. On the other hand, Lafuma posted a relatively lower growth rate of 4.2 percent, recording 240 billion won in sales.
With the growing competition, outdoor sportswear brands have been aggressively marketing their products, spending billions of won in advertising.
A few years ago, they cast accomplished mountaineers for their commercials. Today, however, they cast celebrities to appeal to younger customers.
In fact, Eider attributed its fast growth to its aggressive marketing strategies targeting young consumers. For instance, it cast popular actor Lee Min-ho and singer Im Yoon-a from Girls' Generation for its commercials.
New outdoor apparel brands such as Bean Pole Outdoor and Center Pole were also launched last year.
Bean Pole Outdoor, which was launched last February, has opened 56 stores, posting 40 billion in sales last year, while Center Pole, which was launched last September, has opened 110 stores, posting 51 billion won in sales.
Meanwhile, NEPA was sold to local private equity fund MBK Partners, which acquired 53 percent of its shares at 550 billion won under the condition of succession of NEPA's management and employees.
NEPA said the sale was an effort to globalize the brand through ensuring stable capital.
MBK also plans to acquire another 30 percent of the outdoor sportswear brand's shares through U.S.-based private equity fund Unitas Capital.