Post Pandemic Functionality: Protective Activewear

Covid-19 has spurred a new shift in demand for retail - and protective activewear is on a rise. Here’s what you need to know behind this new key opportunity.

Written by Ashley LooiSeptember 4, 2020


Key Insights

  • A Shift in Demand: While activewear is experiencing a loss in momentum as countries gradually return to normalcy, protective properties in the segment are uptrending.
  • New Kid on the Block: Activewear masks, a new category, has seen tremendous success where sell-out was achieved even after multiple replenishments.
  • Opportunities for Innovation: Brands have a chance to stand out by being innovative with designs that provide high functionality.

The Covid-19 crisis has triggered a regard for health and safety while shopping in-store. Consumers are seeking protection from the virus through use of masks and physical barriers. This growing concern presents opportunities in the activewear category, where designs can be innovated to take on more functional and protective properties.

This report aims to uncover the rising demand for protective activewear in the new normal and analyse how key brands are meeting the demand shift.

Over 279,000 data points were screened from January to August 2020 across 20 brands including Nike, Adidas, Puma and Athleta from key activewear retailers in the US.


All data used in this report comes from products retailing online as tracked by Omnilytics, unless otherwise mentioned.

content image-2 Post Pandemic Functionality: Protective Activewear

Shifting Demand

Slowing Momentum

The trend performance for 20 prominent US activewear brands were analysed to determine the current demand for the segment post-Covid.

Activewear had a positive trend score of 0.9, indicating that it exceeded the average of all categories in the past eight months.

The trend line showed a slight decline as lockdown eased in April and has remained stable ever since.

The consistent performance of activewear demonstrates that the demand for the segment is still present post-Covid.

content image-3 Post Pandemic Functionality: Protective Activewear

Shifting Demand (cont’d)

Discount Driven

Nike, Adidas and Puma achieved an average sell-out rate of 92%. However, a closer look at the contribution revealed that sell-out was mostly driven by discounts. Activewear brands engaged in a high number of first discounts after the pandemic hit as validated in our ‘Covid-19 Consumer Shifts in Activewear’ report published on April 27.

Sell-out rose as the number of discounted items grew. Nike increased the number of discounted items after stay-at-home measures were put into place. Additionally, Puma performed exceptionally well with a 100% sell-out rate across June and July. This was attributed by the brand’s flash summer sale, offering an extra 20% off sale and 30% off outlet items. Further supplementing Puma’s success was its end of summer sale.

Although demand for activewear remains strong, it has shifted to discounted products rather than full priced items.

content image-4 Post Pandemic Functionality: Protective Activewear

Protective Properties

The concern of virus transmission provides a window of opportunity for not only the activewear brands, but also brands who wish to develop protective wear capsules.

Using the keyword filter in Omnilytics dashboard enables brands to identify styles with the specific keywords mentioned in the product name or description.

‘Antimicrobial’ and ‘hydrophobic’ saw an uptick of 64% since the coronavirus wave hit the US in March. This is also an increase from pre-Covid, where such keywords were rarely seen – especially at Adidas and Athleta. The contribution was mainly driven by Nike, who saw a surge in antimicrobial and hydrophobic products since April.

Additionally, the number products that included ‘waterproof’ saw a 768% uplift from the previous year. Much of the increase was contributed by Nike, doubling the number of waterproof products in August in comparison with March. The sell-out rate for such items was impressive at 81%, signaling strong demand for activewear with protective properties.

While waterproof properties have higher sell-out rates, antimicrobial and hydrophobic items show greater opportunity for growth and innovation.

content image-5 Post Pandemic Functionality: Protective Activewear

Growing Categories

A Protective Layer

Outerwear made up the majority of protective activewear. Outerwear with waterproof properties are multifunctional – it doesn’t just form a protective layer against the virus but also serves as a defence against harsh climates.

Nike, Adidas and Foot Locker saw composition for the category at 31% and 51% respectively. Beyond the large contribution, Outerwear saw a strong growth from the previous year with 72% more newness.

Mask Up

A new category in activewear, Masks are fast becoming essentials in the new normal.

These reusable face masks are designed for enhanced breathability. They are also sold in packs ranging from two to five pieces.

Priced the highest, Athleta’s mask pack had the best functionality, including an adjustable head strap to alleviate pressure on the back of the ears from tight ear loops. The product also has a hidden pocket for removable filter inserts for better protection.

Since releasing in June, both Adidas’ and Puma’s face masks have gone out of stock. Adidas face cover continues to receive strong demand with 100% sell-out even after three rounds of replenishment.

content image-5 Post Pandemic Functionality: Protective Activewear

This is an excerpt of the report.
Submit the form below to access the full report.

Meet the Author

Ashley Looi

Ashley Looi combines her major in econometrics with her interest in fashion to help brands and retailers uncover actionable insights. She currently produces in-depth reports on the fashion industry and its changing retail scene across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Southeast Asia.

Receive Weekly Industry Roundups

Sign up to receive the latest industry insights, news and weekly updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Navigate the crisis with Omnilytics

Learn how our fashion retail clients make better decisions with ecommerce analytics