If Topshop’s collaboration with Adidas Originals didn’t alert every retailer to fashion’s current preoccupation with the sports industry, then we don’t know what will. As Topshop’s creative director puts it, “We’re in a sportswear revolution at the moment. Fashion is really driven by what’s happening in the sportswear world, it’s at the top of the radar in the fashion stakes so to have Adidas Originals as a starting point was fantastic”. Fashion and sportswear have fused and the combination is an appealing mix for consumers.
So what’s happening within consumer’s lives causing lift in the demand for sportswear? Firstly, the rise in popularity of fitness classes. In the US, there has been 29% increase in yoga practice since 2008. There has also been a whole host of fun, accessible classes springing up in cities globally, based around dance, yoga, ballet and Pilates, and with appealing branding, including Barre Body, Fitness Rave, Twerkshop.
Improvements to product have also helped propel the popularity of the category: improvements in technology have seen better athletic fabrics reaching the mainstream. Streetwear has also shifted to become increasingly more casual. Premium sportswear brands like Lululemon have made it perfectly acceptable to wear activewear in day-to-day life, Stella McCartney’s involvement with Adidas has given designer kudos and the catwalk is mimicking with sports luxe being rehashed season after season.
Reflecting the New Year’s Resolution market, there was a 38% increase in the number of online mentions of sportswear in January compared to December 2013. Perhaps more interesting is the number of mentions grew another 45% in February – consumers clearly sticking to their good intentions as well as fashion month fuelling widespread attention on to the term.
There’s unarguable evidence in the sales stats too – in the US, women’s activewear sales leapt 9% in 2013 compared to the year before. Even in China, a market which over-estimated the interest in activewear post-2008’s Olympics, has seen recent growth surges. China, who is the largest distributer of sporting goods, including Puma, Nike and Adidas, reported a sales increase of 7% in the three months to end of February 2014, compared to the same period one year ago. The estimates for the global sports apparel market are glowing, set to grow to $178bn by 2019.
Savvy retailers have already swooped in. H&M’s activewear offering, ramped up its profile around the London Olympics, with the brand opening sportswear pop ups in the city. Their current womenswear offering is a success, with 15.6% being replenished and only 10.4% on discount. H&M, Uniqlo and Gap, have all managed to achieve technical quality at low price point. H&M’s womenswear offering spans £1.99-£39.99 and provides for running, swimming, yoga, dance, tennis and outdoor pursuits.
Lululemon, who have been so pivotal in shaping the women’s sportswear revolution in Canada and the US, will open their first UK store in London next week. Local retailers should be braced for this disrupting the activewear market. Meanwhile, H&M opening their first store in Australia in the coming weeks – a market, which until now has been dominated by premium priced activewear.
The Winning Products
So as retailers gear up to optimize on the boom and prepare themselves for competition, what products have been working well recently? In the past three months we’ve seen a 38% increase in the number of new activewear leggings arriving at online retailers globally, compared to the same period one year ago. The average price on those leggings has also risen, from £30 to £42. The most successful brands include Aerie, Nike, Adidas and Forever 21.
29.8 per cent of current women’s activewear has been replenished. Nordstrom are the biggest retailer and Nike the most stocked women’s activewear brand. Average price across all items of apparel is £45. For the men’s activewear market, an astonishing 36% of current merchandise has been restocked and the average price point is higher than women’s, at £52. Zalando is the retailer with the largest men’s assortment, and Adidas Performance the most stocked brand. Among the most successful men’s items are sports socks, soccer-style polyester sports shirts and loose fit basketball shorts.
The trend-led product is exceptionally popular in the women’s market. Sports leggings with a greyscale graphic print have been bestsellers at Very, Zalando, John Lewis and Nordstrom in the last three months and other printed leggings are seeing high levels of sell throughs and restocks. Sports cropped tops and T-shirts where branding is merged with a fashionable print (think florals, camos, graffiti) are also doing well.
Time for Tactics
With retailers at every end of the spectrum scrabbling to get in on the activewear market (Net-a-Porter have an extensive activewear section, and though Mr Porter don’t overtly publicise it, they carry running attire), this is not a trend that will peter out anytime soon. Fall 2014 runways were full of activewear and technical outdoor references, for one Peter Pilotto, whose collection included Airtex sweaters, cyclist’s Lycra and mountain prints. Add to this the backing from popular culture – Justin Bieber fronted an Adidas campaign at the start of this year and Solange Knowles played art director and creative consultant for a high-fashion footwear line for Puma – and we have a consumer movement, not a slipstream preoccupation.
Our advice to retailers? Get clued up before entering the market – learn where others have gone wrong and understand the products and price points where you’ll see quick wins.
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