In a previous article, “How Athleisure Became The New Casual”, we mentioned about how athleisure became a norm in 2014 when Beyonce released an athleisure collection with Topshop called Ivy Park. The cool, effortless yet comfortable style was popularised by millennials who became more interested in the urban street style, as well as having an affinity for fitness and wellness. This is suggested by the increased participation of boutique fitness clubs from 21% in 2013 to 42% in 2014.
Take leggings — a popular symbol of athleisure wear — for instance. When the denim market experienced an influx of popularity and sales in 2017, the $92.9 billion market grew about 4%. Knowing how nimble fashion trends are, many wondered if this meant athleisure had finally reached its demise. Was it finally time to trade in leggings for denim?
Growth in the activewear market has indeed slowed down recently. The global sports apparel industry was accounted to have grown at a compound growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6% since 2012, reaching $180 billion in 2017. In 2022, it is expected to reach $215 billion at a CAGR of 3.4% — a much slower rate than before. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean activewear is dying down because growth in the activewear market is still exceeding the global apparel industry, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 1.9%.
“I think the idea here now is that this apparel is comfortable, it’s versatile, I can wear it for many different occasions and if I do want to do physical activities I can wear it to that as well,” said Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at NPD Group. “I don’t know that we’ll return to a time where we’re wearing more formal clothing.”
Previously, athleisure was always seen as “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. In just over a year, athleisure has evolved. It’s no longer seen as casual wear anymore as we’re noticing A-listers and the most fashionable stylists and influencers strutting their athleisure style on Instagram. Athleisure was commonly worn to exude a sporty, casual and streetwear style, but it seems the trend and market has shifted towards fitness inspired fashion — which means activewear is becoming more well-integrated with fashion.
The distinct difference between the current athleisure trend and past styles is that activewear pieces are incorporated into an already fashionable outfit instead of exuding a more casual approach.
So what exactly defines this trend? And how can you plan your assortments to meet consumer demands? This article will uncover the forces driving this trend to help you strategise your business.
Let’s take a look at some of the top athleisure trends this summer.
Trend: Sport and Bike Shorts
Brands & Retailers: Sport and Bike Shorts
The bike and sport shorts trend has been embraced by everyone, from celebrities to mass consumers. Inspired by one of Princess Diana’s key looks of pairing bike shorts with an oversized sweater, the look has evolved from a casual errand-running outfit to a fashion forward look. Consumer preferences vary with this trend, thus brands and retailers should continue producing classic key designs while increasing more fashionable and less minimalistic designs as well.
Trend: Sports Bra Crop Tops
Brands & Retailers: Sports Bra Crop Tops
The sports bra crop top trend is essentially wearing a sports bra as a crop top. Brands and retailers have been producing eclectic and quirky designs that are extremely popular among millennials. According to NPD Group, 41% of millennials said they wore a sports bra in the past seven days as compared to 21% of non-millennials. Many sports bras are now designed to be worn cohesively with any outfit, which means they look more like a top than an actual rendition of lingerie. As such, activewear brands such as Lululemon have even created an entire line of “sports bras for streetwear”.
The Indie Activewear Shake-up
The activewear industry is increasingly competitive with more brands and retailers, even fast fashion, hopping on the bandwagon and producing their own athletic lines. However, one market has been gaining lots of attention and publicity among Millennials and Gen Z consumers. Brands such as Outdoor Voices, Athleta, Aerie, coined as “indie brands” are now taking over traditional activewear brands. Indie activewear brands differ from sports retailers in such that they market themselves as a lifestyle rather than a sports brand.
Outdoor Voices is an activewear brand like no other. By focusing on bridging the gap between performance and lifestyle wear, they produce recreational apparel for active people who don’t necessarily see themselves as athletes. In March, they secured $34 million in funding, an impressive feat considering how competitive the market is now. Adding on, Aerie — an intimate apparel sub-brand owned by American Eagle Outfitters, contributed 11% to American Eagle’s revenue in 2017. At a time when indie activewear brands are thriving, it seems sports retailers may be faltering.Image Source: Outdoor Voices
The graphs below illustrates Nike and Puma’s data from Omnilytics highlighting the US market from April to July; displaying how two major sports retailers performed this summer.
The sellout rates for both brands were relatively low during the period of April to July with the exception of Puma in June. We can’t deduce what exactly caused the low sellout rates for both brands, but the possibility of indie activewear brands affecting the major sports brands should definitely be considered. To uncover the factors behind their low sellout rate performances, we would have to analyse the respective brands’ assortments, discounting and pricing strategies, etc. Only with more data and time can we support any inferences here.
The Main Takeaway
Brands and retailers that are looking to succeed in the activewear market should invest more time and money in product innovation by combining style and functionality. The trends above have shown that Millennials and Gen Z consumers veered towards having the best of both worlds. Those that can produce high quality, trendy and relevant products are most likely to capture these consumers’ wallets.
Young activewear brands have shown that their ability to market themselves as a lifestyle brand and finding a niche that consumers can connect to has helped them thrive in such a competitive market. Focus on marketing as a lifestyle brand and not just an activewear brand as the lines start to blur between the two. It’s all about looking for ways to stand out in a saturated market.
Lastly, one thing that most indie activewear brands have in common is the diversification and inclusivity of shapes and sizes. By embracing real women’s bodies, these brands have solidified a place in consumers’ hearts as a brand they can relate to. This also opens up a wider target audience and market for brands and retailers.
Of course, these aren’t guidelines to guarantee success for your brand, what works for one brand may not work for yours but it’s a good place to start exploring new ideas that can generate newness to peak consumers’ interest.Image Source: Aerie
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The data above was obtained from Omnilytics, real-time market data platform. The numbers and statistics may vary, as the platform is updated every day. The time period of the information taken was between 1st April 2018 to 31st July 2018.