Online sales of Nike, Adidas plummet on Chinese shopping platform amid Xinjiang boycott

2021.05.07

Sportswear giants Nike and Adidas saw sales of their products slump by up to 78% on a leading Chinese online shopping platform after a boycott of international brands that have expressed human rights concerns over cotton produced in Xinjiang.

Online sales of Adidas’ store on Tmall, run by Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group, plummeted by 78% last month from a year earlier, according to U.S. based investment research firm Morningstar. Nike fell by 59% over the same period, while Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo dropped by 20%.

Chinese consumers instead turned to homegrown sportswear brands that have voiced support for using cotton produced in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

Li Ning Co. saw a ninefold jump in its sales on Tmall last month amid a nationalistic buying frenzy, while Anta Sports Products recorded a 59% surge.

The impact of the consumer backlash was most likely to be temporary and should fade over the coming months, according to Morningstar analysts.

Outlets of international fashion brands earlier boycotted by Chinese consumers were busy in major cities including Shanghai over the five-day holiday from May 1, according to media reports. Some mainland internet users also became unhappy with Li Ning for raising prices following the Xinjiang cotton row.

Revenue from Greater China amounted to nearly one-fifth of Nike’s sales in its 2020 fiscal year and nearly a quarter of net sales for Adidas, media reports said.

Mainland consumers launched a boycott of western brands including Nike, Adidas, and H&M in March over their pledges not to source cotton from Xinjiang. This came after the U.S, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom sanctioned Chinese officials for alleged repression of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups in the northwestern Chinese region.

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