Reviewed: Global Online Activewear
January – December 2018 • Menswear & Womenswear

Reviewed: Global Online Activewear

The athleisure trend shows no signs of slowing down as more consumers are trading in their heels for a pair of trendy sneakers. In this report, we compiled ten of the biggest activewear brands to cross examine and analyse the performance of each category.


By Atiqah
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  • Top 10 Brands Ranked

    Brands were ranked based on four key metrics as illustrated in Chart 1, with higher weightage assigned to the sell-out rate. Nike reigned the top spot with its large assortment counts (3x more than adidas) and strong sell-out at full price.

     

    Unassuming Brands

    At 2nd place, New Balance made a surprise entry, knocking adidas to 3rd placing. Its high median price and strong replenishment lifted its score greatly. Other surprising entries into the top 10 rank were Asics, Fila, Lorna Jane and Lululemon.

    Winning Shoe of The Year 2018 (by Footwear News), the iconic chunky ‘dad’ sneaker, The Disruptor, released in various colourways marked the brand’s success with a strong sell-out.

    Lorna Jane, one out of just two yoga-inspired athletic brands on the rank, secured itself in the top 10 spot primarily by achieving sell-out at higher median price and replenished rate.

     

    Lacklustre Performance

    Puma had marginally higher sell-out rate than Nike and adidas, though it was more reliant on discounted items. Similarly, adidas delivered more sell-out on discounted items despite having the 2nd largest assortment offering.

    Under Armour underperformed with the lowest sell-out rate and at the least median price (refer to its sharp dive in Chart 2). The dismal numbers validated the brand’s continued struggle to grow sales in a highly competitive market.

    The Leading Categories

    Due to the growing streetwear trend, it was no surprise that Lifestyle and Activewear shoes were the leading categories (refer to Chart 3). This was followed by Tops & T-Shirts and Outerwear with a combined share of 30%.

    In terms of sell-out rate (refer to Chart 4), Activewear Shoes achieved the highest at 84.0%, led by Nike with high sell-out and replenishment frequency in 2018.

    Active Outerwear had the least sell-out rate among the 10 brands (refer to Chart 4), but appeared strong in Reebok. Successful collaborations with personalities like Cardi B x Reebok’s 90s jacket, Brain Dead x Beam’s Classic track jacket and Mobius OG’s retro jacket may have contributed to the high sell-out rate at 87%.

    The category Shorts was visibly strong on sell-out despite having lesser assortment counts, with running shorts and workout tights showing higher sell-out movement.

    The Leading Categories (continued)

    Here, we took a deeper look at the individual brand’s total SKUs by category and its respective sell-out rates.

    Nike had the largest SKU share for all categories in the activewear industry, followed by adidas and Puma. However, a highly stocked category may not lead to a strong sell-out performance. This is evident through Under Armour’s Lifestyle Shoes being the brand’s smallest category in assortment size yet commanded the highest sell-out rate within the brand.

    This year, we also observed that Fila was the only brand that fetched the highest sell-out for its biggest category, Lifestyle Shoes. Driven by the chunky-soled 90’s inspired, Fila Disruptor II was a significant contributor to Fila’s success, riding on the much-hyped “dad sneaker” trend.

    On the apparel front, Lorna Jane was in the lead, surpassing rival giant Lululemon in the categories of Outerwear, Pants & Leggings and Shorts.

    Lifestyle Shoes: Deep Dive Analysis

    Worn for athleisure fashion more than for athletic intent, Lifestyle Shoes were the crowd’s favourite among activewear categories. Puma and Fila, for example, had high SKU releases with high sell-out rates.

     

    Winners

    At 92.5% sell-out and 81% replenishment rate, Under Armour took the top spot with only 106 SKUs released (refer to Chart 6 and 7). This suggested Under Armour’s strategy in replenishing bestsellers, but at the same time, cautious on new releases.

    At 2nd and 3rd places respectively, Puma and Fila pushed out more SKUs at lower prices, but with higher discount range at 30% – 39% – potentially covering more consumer share.

     

    Loser

    Reebok had the least sell-out at 70.1% among the 10 brands ranked.

     

    Key Observations

    Lifestyle shoes with monochrome colours of whites, blacks, and greys pushed the highest sell-out. Pink was the only non-monochrome colour that appealed to the crowd. The chunky sole trend went up by 17% throughout the year and created a cult following for the Fila’s “Disruptor” sneakers.

     

    Lifestyle Shoes: Bestsellers by Brand

    Bestsellers were scored based on high replenishment and sell-out frequencies in 2018, putting Under Armour’s Stephen Curry sneakers at number one.

    Monochrome colours were evident in the bestsellers list, while pink was the top choice for women’s shoes. The notable design was the chunky sole by Puma’s oversized sneakers, Nike’s Air Max 97 and Fila’s Disruptor II.

     

    Activewear Shoes: Deep Dive Analysis

    2018 was the year for Nike in the performance-geared Activewear Shoes, topping key metrics by SKU releases, sell-out performance and in-stock productivity.

     

    Winners

    Flooding the market with the largest SKUs in the category (4x the amount of adidas) and still delivered the highest sell-out rate at 86% put Nike at the top of the rank. The brand’s high replenishment practice ensured high demand was met while preventing out-of-stock issues.

    While adidas came second in line in terms of assortment size, the sell-out performance fared below rival Puma and Asics.

     

    Loser

    At 74% sell-out rate, Reebok was placed last, relative to the top 10 brands.

     

    Key Observations

    Black was the crowd’s favourite colour for Activewear Shoes, followed by grey, white, and blue. The low-heel shoes increased in trend by 48% throughout 2018, compared to high-top trainers with only 3% increment.

     

    Activewear Shoes: Bestsellers by Brand

    Bestsellers were scored based on high replenishment and sell-out frequencies in 2018, putting Nike’s “Raised on Concrete” football boots on the top.

    Monochrome colours like black, grey, and white were evident in the bestsellers list.

     

    Tops & T-Shirts: Deep Dive Analysis

    Activewear Tops & T-Shirts was the 3rd ranked category by sell-out share. Canadian yoga-inspired brand Lululemon topped most metrics.

     

    Winners

    Lululemon had the highest sell-out rate at 85%, which is above the average sell-out price (refer Chart 10). Traditional activewear brands like Nike and adidas played the volume game in this category while keeping prices low (20x more SKUs than Lululemon).

    On replenishment, Lululemon recorded the least at 25% despite its high sell-out rate, exposing to the risk of a frequent out-of-stock situation and thus, affecting customer loyalty.

     

    Loser

    Better known for sports-inspired retro shoes, Fila had the lowest sell-out rate in tops & t-shirts at 66.3%, among the 10 brands ranked.

     

    Key Observations

    Tank tops with racerback or decorative cuts were among the fast-movers in Lorna Jane and Lululemon. Polos made a comeback in the activewear scene, combining casual aesthetics with engineered fabric, notably the highly-breathable and anti-stink “Evolution Polo” from Lululemon. The bodysuit was a surprising trend (+87% uptrend in 2018), with Nike x Ambush dri-fit bodysuit in the bestseller list.

     

    Activewear Tops & T-Shirts: Bestsellers by Brand

    Bestsellers were scored based on high replenishment and sell-out frequencies in 2018, putting Lululemon’s racerback tank tops in the lead.

    Monochrome colours were evident with greys and blacks with pinks for women’s tank top. Notable styling was the solid coloured top, or with logo.

     

    Outerwear: Deep Dive Analysis

    Reebok was the leading brand for track jackets, which was the best-selling subcategory for outerwear, followed by track jackets from Puma and adidas. Meanwhile, hoodies & sweatshirts were led by Lorna Jane and Nike.

     

    Winners

    Overall, Reebok kept their active outerwear SKUs low and opted for a higher replenishment of 64% (refer to Chart 13), which led to the highest sell-out rate among the 10 brands. While Puma had 6x more SKUs than Reebok, Puma achieved decent success by focusing on releasing capsule collections in collaborations with The Weeknd, Karl Lagerfeld, and Big Sean instead of replenishment strategy.

     

    Loser

    Fila had the lowest sell-out rate at 69.1% among the 10 brands ranked.

     

    Key Observations

    Paying homage to the ‘90s seemed to be the signature look for track jackets this year, with colour-block design seen on Reebok and Puma’s bestsellers. The cropped design uptrended by 74% in outerwear as sported by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, and was the best-selling style across Lorna Jane, Nike and adidas.

     

    Active Outerwear: Bestsellers by Brand

    Bestsellers were scored based on high replenishment and sell-out frequencies in 2018, putting Reebok’s retro track jacket on the top.

    Colour-block design with blues, reds, and whites was evident in track jackets. Other notable designs were the women’s cropped hoodie and jumper.

     

    Pants & Leggings: Deep Dive Analysis

    Overall, Lorna Jane had the highest sell-out rate for this category. Subcategory, Tights & Leggings, was the bestseller for Lorna Jane, Lululemon and Nike. Meanwhile, Joggers was the leading subcategory for Puma and adidas.

     

    Winners

    Tights & Leggings by Lorna Jane delivered 10% higher sell-out rate and practised 18% more replenishments compared to rival Lululemon. Meanwhile, Puma led in sell-out rate for Joggers despite having 5x lesser SKU releases compared to adidas.

     

    Loser

    Asics had the lowest in sell-out rate at 65.6% among the 10 brands ranked.

     

    Key Observations

    Combining style and comfort, intricate mesh panels on leggings rose in trend by 22% in 2018, and laser-cut slits uptrended by 7%. Mid-rise leggings increased by 22%, higher than high-rise, while plus-sized leggings rose by 6%.

    No longer reserved for lounging or workout, the Joggers have slowly dethroned the traditional dress trousers, with 90% uptrend in the tapered-leg “smart joggers” currently deemed suitable as workwear essential.

     

    Activewear Pants & Leggings: Bestsellers by Brand

    Bestsellers were scored based on high replenishment and sell-out frequencies in 2018, putting Lorna Jane’s leggings at the top.

    Common colours for pants & leggings were black, grey, white, and blue. Notable styling was the mid-rise leggings, mesh panels on leggings, side stripes and subtle colour-blocks.

     

    Shorts: Deep Dive Analysis

    Activewear shorts fetched a higher sell-out rate compared to outerwear, pants & leggings and sports bra in 2018. Within Shorts, Running Shorts and Workout Tights were the leading subcategories, championed by Lorna Jane, Asics, Puma, Lululemon and Nike.

     

    Winners

    Lorna Jane dominated the key subcategories, namely Running Shorts and Workout Tights by delivering the highest sell-out rate at a 1.7x higher price than Nike, and with lower discount range amongst the top 5 brands. Nike primarily catered to menswear with drawstring basketball shorts as the leading subcategory.

     

    Loser

    New Balance had the lowest sell-out rate at 66.2% among the 10 brands ranked.

     

    Key Observations

    2-in-1 shorts style (combining stretchy compression fabric underneath flowy shorts) enjoyed a massive 62% rise in trend this year, showing up as bestsellers among Nike, Puma and Lululemon.

    Printed shorts uptrended by 22%, higher than the classic logo on solid-coloured shorts.

     

    Activewear Shorts: Bestsellers by Brand

    Bestsellers were scored based on high replenishment and sell-out frequencies in 2018, putting Lorna Jane’s run shorts at the top.

    Favourite colours for shorts were black and grey. Notable bestsellers were Running and Training Shorts for women and the 2-in-1 shorts for men.

     

     

    Sports Bra: Deep Dive Analysis

    An outlier, Lululemon achieved a high sell-out rate at the highest median price of USD 58 for the category Sports Bra – without executing discounts online.

     

    Winners

    Lululemon displayed strong brand power with high sell-outs at the highest price range. Diving into sports bra subcategories, Nike was leading in high-support sports bra with 91.6% sell-out rate, followed by Lululemon and adidas. Medium-support sports bras were the fastest-moving in Reebok; while sports bra with light support had the highest sell-out in Puma.

     

    Loser

    The median price for Under Armour’s sports bra was the highest, at 10% higher than Nike’s, which was believed to have contributed to its poor performance with the lowest sell-out rate at 68.3%.

     

    Key observations

    Medium-support sports bra was the most stocked-up and delivered the highest sell-out. The top 3 most stocked-up colours with high sell-outs were black, blue and pink.

    In 2018, the criss-cross back design uptrended by a huge 72%; while seamless sports bra and sports bra with mesh overlay up-trended by 10% and 6% respectively.

     

    Sports Bra: Bestsellers by Brand

    Bestsellers were scored based on high replenishment and sell-out frequencies in 2018, putting Puma’s sports bra at the top.

    Black was the most common colour among bestsellers. Notable styling was the criss-cross back design and medium-coverage bras.

     

    Conclusion

    Main Findings

    ‘90s Throwback: The nostalgic aesthetics were hinted in athleisure, making the decade-old trends cool again for a new audience:

    • Chunky ‘dad’ shoe: Creating a full-blown trend in 2018 and put Fila back into the spotlight, the chunky trend sees no sign of slowing down, as spotted in the Paris Fashion Week Men’s FW ’19.
    • Colour-block: The loud, bright, colour-blocked retro outerwear aesthetics made a comeback as seen on Reebok, adidas, and Puma’s track jacket.
    • Neon: A trending colour among activewear +32% throughout 2018 and spotted on the New York SS 19 fashion week, the intense hue increased in new-ins among activewear shoes and tops & t-shirts from Nike and adidas.

     

    Emerging Indie Winner: One of the early adopters of activewear fashion, Lorna Jane surpassed rival Lululemon in Outerwear, Pants & Leggings and Shorts. With more accessible pricing and higher online visibility, including the presence in retailers like Namshi and Zalora,  Lorna Jane delivered strong sell-out backed by good replenishment.

    Apart from Lorna Jane’s #fitspo founder’s high online engagement with its followers via constant sharing about wellness that aligns with the brand’s image, news of Lorna Jane expanding to greater China showcased its great potential and proved to be an inspiration to the other indie brands.

     

    Key Takeaways

    Diversity & Inclusivity: As fitness continues to gain popularity as a certain lifestyle, the lack of options for sizes above 12 hurts brand image in the era of embracing body positivity. While indie fitness brands were seen pushing for plus size collections, affirmation for plus size demand was seen in Lululemon’s top 5 best-selling sizes in 2018 including sizes UK 14 and 16.

     

    Increased Fashion Quotient: As evident from the key findings reported, activewear is increasingly influenced by fashion. Vice versa, the fast fashion brands have also grown their respective activewear assortments as seen across Ivy Park by Topshop, H&M Sportswear and Forever 21 Activewear. With athleisure becoming a staple in the fashion world, new brands should start thinking about  embarking into this space or to trial with a small capsule.

     

    Sustainable Activewear: Celebrity collaborations are commonplace in the activewear scene, which gradually elevates and saturating the high fashion market. Brands should look into other avenues of marketing and PR, such as towards sustainable fashion.

    Apart from spreading global awareness for a cause, adidas’ collaboration with Parley’s Ocean Plastic for activewear shoes were welcomed with a higher sell-out at 86.2% than its normal range, most notably the Ultraboost shoe made from upcycled marine plastic waste.

     

     

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