China’s Footwear Market 2018

- Dec 10, 2018-

China’s Footwear Market

I.  Market Overview

As the disposable income of China’s huge population continues to rise and consumer demand for higher quality footwear grows, sales in the sector are not only enormous, but are increasing steadily. According to a survey by Euromonitor, the total value of mainland footwear sales in 2017 was RMB381.9 billion, a 5.5% year-on-year increase. Of this, the sales of men’s shoes delivered RMB144.2 billion in revenue, accounting for 38% of the total, while sales of women’s footwear brought in a further RMB184.5 billion (48%). Sales of children’s shoes accounted for RMB53.2 billion (14%). By 2021, it is estimated that the mainland footwear market will be worth around RMB487.4 billion.

Footwear Sales in 2013-2017 (RMB million)

Children’s shoes36,181.339,980.343,978.448,244.353,165.2
Men’s shoes114,837.5124,483.8131,081.5136,586.9144,195.0
Women’s shoes169,878.0177,182.8178,954.6177,165.1184,503.6

Source: Euromonitor International


Leather shoes market:
Office workers are the primary purchasers of leather shoes, a group that is now placing greater emphasis on footwear design and style. It is also worth noting that male and female consumers have totally different criteria for buying shoes. While men tend to attach more importance to traditional designs, women are more focussed on current and up-and-coming styles. Generally speaking, the received wisdom that women own more pairs of shoes than men is borne out by factual analysis.

Sports shoes market: 
Sports shoes can be classified into general sports shoes, professional training shoes and professional sports shoes, according to their specifications. The most commonly purchased sports shoes are sneakers, travelling shoes, basketball shoes, football shoes and tennis shoes. As sporting events are becoming increasingly popular and people’s interest in personal fitness continues to rise, as well as greater enthusiasm for taking part in sports under the National Fitness Programme and related government policies, the cost of participating in sports-related activities has become a significant part of many individuals’ monthly spending.

Leisure shoes market: 
As the concept of ‘leisure’ is becoming increasingly important in the lives of many Chinese consumers, the market for leisure shoes is also growing rapidly, with style and comfort seen as the two primary selling points in the sector. Typically, purchasers of leisure shoes tend to be aged between 18 and 45 and more demanding than average for brand culture and individuality, with students and office workers forming the mainstay.

Slippers market: 
Following the diversification of footwear trends and the development of urban leisure, slippers have undergone their own evolution. They have shifted from being traditional worn-at-home items to becoming fashionable and a reflection of the tastes of modern urban trendsetters. As a consequence, sales of outdoor slippers, led by leisure slippers and fashion slippers, have been growing rapidly.

Children’s shoes market:
Euromonitor data shows that China’s children’s shoes market was worth RMB53.2 billion in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 10.2%. For the same period, figures released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics show that there were 250 million children aged 15 and under living in the country, and 17.23 million babies born during the year. In view of this, the children’s shoes market clearly has enormous growth potential.

In recent years, many leading children’s footwear brands have attached increased importance to product quality, while there has also been a greater emphasis on producing healthier footwear. Inevitably, shoe style, quality and comfort directly influence consumer buying decisions.

Various adult footwear brands have also entered the children’s market over recent years. In addition to established international brands, such as Nike and Adidas, several domestic brands have also entered the children’s garment, footwear and accessories market, including Li NingAnta361 Degrees and Xtep. Apart from developing additional revenue areas, building an extended brand allegiance has also been a priority for many of these domestic brands.

Inevitably, keen competition has led to the segmentation of the children’s shoes market. At the same time, many players have sought to expand their market share through the continual improvement of products and services.

As the ‘low-carbon, eco-friendly’ trend is drawing more and more public attention, various brands in the footwear industry have launched low-carbon society campaigns, with some introducing low-carbon products using green raw materials, energy conservation and recyclability, in a move to enhance their brand and attract consumers. Reebok, for instance, has developed a system for making leisure shoes using industrial corn and organic cotton. When these eco-friendly shoes are worn out and discarded, their biodegradable materials turn directly into fertiliser without any negative consequences for the environment.

Imports of selected footwear products in China in 2017:

HS CodeDescriptionImport Value
in 2017
(US$ million)
YOY Change
6401Waterproof footwear with outer soles and uppers of rubber or plastics, the uppers of which are neither fixed to the sole nor assembled by stitching, riveting, nailing, screwing, plugging or similar processes2.5-15.9
6402Other footwear with outer soles and uppers of rubber or plastics319.94.2
6403Footwear with outer soles of rubber, plastics, leather or composition leather and uppers of leather1,405.97.5
64031200Ski boots, cross-country ski footwear and snowboard boots0.03-65.6
64031900Other sports footwear8.9-41.4
64032000Footwear with outer soles of leather, and uppers which consist of leather straps across the instep and around the big toe4.5-2.0
64035900Other footwear, covering the ankle but not covering the knee191.112.5
64039900Other footwear with outer soles of rubber, plastics, leather or composition leather and uppers of leather902.23.7
6404Footwear with outer soles of rubber, plastics, leather or composition leather and uppers of textile materials1,479.037.6
64041100Sports footwear, tennis shoes, basketball shoes, gym shoes, training shoes and the like126.8 46.8
6405Other footwear30.3-19.3

Source: Global Trade Atlas


II.  Market Competition

The mainland footwear market is dominated by domestically made products. There are currently four major footwear industry clusters in the country, predominantly located in the southeast coastal regions. The Guangdong footwear industry base, with Guangzhou and Dongguan at the heart, focuses on medium to high-end shoes, while Zhejiang, with its footwear sector centred around Wenzhou and Taizhou, primarily produces medium to low-end men’s shoes. The western region’s footwear industry is headed by Chengdu and Chongqing, with medium to low-end women’s shoes accounting for the majority of its output. Led by Quanzhou and Jinjiang, meanwhile, Fujian’s footwear industry specialises in sporting shoes.

Three different kinds of businesses are targeting the mainland market. Firstly, there are imported brands, which mainly come from the US and Europe, with Italy and Spain particularly well-represented. Brands such as Santoni, the Italian handmade shoes company, tend to target the higher end of the market. Then there are Sino-foreign joint-venture enterprises. Primarily headquartered in Hong Kong or Taiwan, their financial resources and design capabilities once dominated the mid-market. More recently, however, a number of domestic brands, most notably Belle, have made successful incursions into this particular sector. The overall picture is completed by the vast number of domestic manufacturers who primarily service the lower end of the footwear market.

Mainland footwear companies are facing problems of becoming outdated, lacking design innovation and having a low price-performance ratio. In order to stay competitive, they are beginning to make greater use of innovative production techniques. For example, Shoe Cube set up a smart platform for tailor-made footwear which uses a 3D foot scanner to measure clients’ feet to produce shoe lasts and custom-fitted shoes. Meanwhile, the domestic brand Peak produced the first pair of 3D-printed running shoes on the mainland in 2017.

Overall, though, intensifying competition has led to further market segmentation. This has seen many of the better-known international and domestic sports shoes brands, for instance, focusing their efforts largely on the adult market. As competition continues to increase the market is expected to become still more segmented, which will give companies in the sector scope for targeting additional niches and sub-categories. As an example of this, with hiking having become widely popular across the mainland, a number of footwear companies have taken the opportunity to launch specialist hiking and walking footwear.

Despite these increased opportunities for specialisation, many mainland manufacturers remain concerned over the renewed challenges from elsewhere in Southeast Asia, with several countries now offering considerable labour cost advantages over China, while also having improved access to better-resourced local industry chains. As the capacity of these countries is limited and their industry chains remain comparatively undeveloped, China has, for the time being at least, retained its role as the world’s favoured workshop. With one eye on the future, however, a number of mainland footwear companies have developed strategic relationships with their Southeast Asian counterparts. One of the fruits of this policy was the launch of the China-ASEAN Footwear Industry Cooperation Committee on 8 June 2013.


III.  Sales Channels

Retail channels for footwear in China are mainly department stores, specialty stores and e-commerce. Part of the appeal of specialty stores lies in their robust brand image, fast cash flow and prompt and effective customer feedback. In terms of their disadvantages, some customers have complained of the homogeneity of products and brands. Despite this, many companies are still opting to use specialty stores – now a common sight on the mainland – as their primary sales channels, including such high-profile businesses as Le Saunda and Aokang.

In Wenzhou – seen as the ‘footwear capital’ of China – several trade associations have established a one-stop footwear products and services platform as a means of promoting the city’s footwear material and footwear manufacturing industry. This dedicated site, billed as ‘China’s footwear and footwear material city’, has signed up more than 500 tenants, all of them currently active in the sector. With a huge variety of footwear and footwear materials on offer, many from well-known brands, the platform now attracts buyers from across China and the whole of the world. This innovative marketplace is now seen as playing a key role in the sustained development of Wenzhou’s footwear sector.

Taking a different approach, a number of manufacturers have started to channel more of their products through hypermarkets, outlets where different types of shoes under different brands are usually grouped together and offered for sale under one roof. By doing so, they have ended their reliance on single-brand specialty stores, opting instead for the more diversified opportunities offered by the hypermarkets. Typically, many well-known brands will set lower price points when selling through hypermarkets, with middle-aged and younger consumers seen as their target purchasers.

Chain operations are also seen as having a strong competitive advantage in the footwear sector. As a consequence, large-scale chain operations are becoming ever more popular on the mainland, with both Shenzhen’s Zhengdahua and Guangzhou’s Darloro having adopted this model.

As internet penetration continues to grow, online sales have become the main retail channel for the footwear sector. Online sales mainly take two forms: one is to set up self-operated direct sales networks, as in the case of Anda Shoes; the other is to make use of large B2C e-commerce platforms like and Many footwear companies, such as Xtep and 361 Degrees, have started venturing into the online market.

Despite the growth in significance of online sales, footwear marts housing large numbers of manufacturers and suppliers remain important wholesale trading platforms for footwear across the mainland. Among the most popular examples are the footwear commercial district on Guangzhou’s Zhanxi Road, the Hehuachi footwear wholesale mart in Chengdu, the shoe city in Wenzhou and the Taipingyang (Pacific) shoe city in Changchun.

At present, many of the specialised footwear wholesale marts in the larger cities are looking to move upmarket, while also setting out to expand their operations. This should help boost the sales of more fashionable footwear, while increasing their influence on the wider marketplace and increasing both footfall and sales within these specialist marts.

China’s wide range of footwear trade fairs, which take place in several locations across the country, are seen as one of the key means for industry players to stay informed of the latest developments within the sector.

Selected Footwear and Related Products Exhibitions in China

24-26 Aug 2018China (Wenzhou) International Leather, Shoe Material, Shoe Machinery FairWenzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center
27-30 Mar 2019China (Dongguan) International Footwear Machinery & Material Industry FairGuangdong Modern International Exhibition Center, Dongguan
28-31 May 2019International Exhibition on Shoes & Leather IndustryChina Import and Export Fair Complex, Pazhou, Guangzhou
10-12 Jul 2019Shanghai International Footwear FairShanghai New International Expo Centre


IV.  Import and Trade Regulations

It is important for any overseas companies looking to enter the Chinese footwear market to take note of the relevant standards that apply. Under the Standardisation Law of the People’s Republic of China, which came into force on 1 April 1989, there are four levels of standards – national, industry, local and corporate. The national standards are subdivided into mandatory (GB) and recommended (GB/T). The industry standards are similarly divided – mandatory (QB) and recommended (QB/T). Overall, footwear falls into the light industry category, where the local standards are mandatory standards enforced within particular administrative regions, while the corporate standards apply internally within any given enterprise. For all enquiries with regard to the relevant standards, visit the website of the Standardisation Administration of China.

The State Council cut Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs for 1,449 taxable items of daily consumer goods, including apparel, footwear and headgear, cosmetics and kitchen supplies, starting from 1 July 2018, to further expand opening-up and satisfy consumer demand. In this exercise, the average import tariffs for apparel, footwear and headgear were slashed from 15.9% to 7.1%.

For 2018, the tariff rates levied by China on selected imported footwear products are as follows:

HS CodeDescriptionTariff rate
Waterproof footwear with outer soles and uppers of rubber or plastics, the uppers of which are neither fixed to the sole nor assembled by stitching, riveting, nailing, screwing, plugging or similar processes10
Other footwear with outer soles and uppers of rubber or plastics4-24
Ski boots, cross-country ski footwear and snowboard boots14
Other sports footwear
Footwear with outer soles of leather, and uppers which consist of leather straps across the instep and around the big toe 14
Other footwear, incorporating a protective metal toe-cap14
6404Footwear with outer soles of rubber, plastics, leather or composition leather and uppers of textile materials
6405Other footwear with uppers of leather or composition leather6-12
6406Parts of footwear (including uppers whether or not attached to soles other than outer soles); removable in-soles, heel cushions and similar articles; gaiters, leggings and similar articles and parts thereof6,15

Source: Customs Import and Export Tariff of the People’s Republic of China 2017; MFN Tariff Adjustment Table for Imported Consumer Goods issued by the Ministry of Finance in 2018


Under CEPA, in principle, all Hong Kong products manufactured in compliance with the rules of origin can enter the mainland market with a zero tariff rate. As such, footwear products are entitled to zero tariffs and Hong Kong companies can clearly benefit from this arrangement when accessing the mainland market.

As of 1 September 2015, a new set of standards – Technical Specification for Export Footwear (SN/T 1309-2015) – has been applicable to the inspection of China’s footwear imports and exports, replacing the previous SN/T 1309.1 – SN/T 1309.7 series of standards.

China has also updated certain footwear product standards and related testing methods, as shown in the table below:

Testing Method/Standard

Standard CodeStandard TitleReplaced StandardExecuted Date
1GB/T 33393-2016Footwear – Test method for whole shoes – Measurements of heat and moisture resistance under steady state-01/07/2017
2GB/T 33426-2016Rubber shoes – Determination of organotin compounds-01/07/2017
3GB/T 33393-2016Footwear – Test method for whole shoes – Measurements of heat and moisture resistance under steady state-01/07/2017
4GB/T 32435-2015Footwear – Test method for volatile organic compounds-01/07/2016
5GB 30585-2014Safety technical specifications for children’s footwear-01/01/2016
6GB/T 30907-2014Rubber shoes – Test method for shock attenuating properties of athletic shoes-01/12/2014
7GB/T 30909-2014Rubber shoes – Determination of migration of acrylonitrile-01/12/2014
8GB/T 30910-2014Rubber shoes – Determination of migration of 2-Mercaptobenzothiazole and 2,2’-Dithiobis (benzothiazole)-01/12/2014
9GB/T 31278-2014Brand valuation – Apparel, shoe and hat industry-01/12/2014
10HG/T 2877-2014Determination of pull-out force of upper bands from bottom of slippers or sandalsHG/T 2877-199701/10/2014
11HG/T 3663-2014Test method for antibacterial activity of rubber shoesHG/T 3663-200001/10/2014
12HG/T 3664-2015Test method of the resistance of all rubber boots (shoes) to water penetrationHG/T 3664-200001/10/2015
13HG/T 3689-2014Test method of discoloration for footwearHG/T 3689-200101/10/2014
14HG/T 4620-2014Footwear – Test methods of rubber parts – Blooming-01/10/2014
15HG/T 4805-2015Rubber shoes – Determination of adhesion between rubber parts and textile fabric-01/10/2015
16HG/T 4806-2015Rubber shoes – Test method for outsoles – Compression set-01/10/2015
17HG/T 4807-2015Rubber shoes – Test method of anti-perspiration for insole, lining and in socks-01/10/2015
18QB/T 5212-2017
Test method of impact scuff for upper leather-01/04/2018
 19QB/T 5213-2017Test method of compressibility for composite sole-01/04/2018
20QB/T 5214-2017Test method for flexing of outsole welt and foxing-01/04/2018
21QB/T 5215-2017Heel repeated compression test method-01/04/2018
22QB/T 5216-2017Test method for the breaking strength and elongation of the whole shoe’s mouth-01/04/2018


Product Standard

Standard CodeStandard TitleReplaced StandardExecuted Date
1GB/T 22756-2017Leather sandalsQB/T 22756-200801/12/2017
2GB/T 33384-2016Rubber footwear terminology-01/07/2017
3GB 19340-2014Adhesives for footwear and luggageGB 19340-200301/05/2015
4GB/T 30779-2014Water-based polyurethane adhesives for shoes-01/12/2014
5HG/T 2018-2014Casual rubber shoesHG/T 2018-200301/04/2015
6HG/T 2870-2014Professional sports shoes for table tennisHG/T 2870-199701/10/2014
7HG/T 4621-2014Latex foam for footwear-01/10/2014
8HG/T 4808-2015Mesh for shoes-01/10/2015
9HG/T 4809-2015Cross-country rubber shoes-01/10/2015