Athleisure trend to stay an influencer on move into luxury, lifestyle and tech
Reports of atheisure’s death are greatly exaggerated and the category is entering a new phase that will see it strengthening further. That was the message from a Euromonitor briefing in London looking at the potential for one of the industry’s most dynamic categories of recent years.
But while the research specialist sees the category as having an equally dynamic future, Euromonitor is also predicting major evolution as it adapts to a shifting trend cycle.
It expects the luxury consumer’s move towards experiences over mere product to make an impact and also sees athleisure’s influence filtering further into everyday wear, as ‘athleisure by stealth’ becomes more common.
And it believes that growth will accelerate as the category moves from being just a trend to becoming a lifestyle choice for fitness and wellness-focused consumers.
At the briefing, Magdalena Kondej, head of apparel and footwear, said athleisure (including sports-inspired, performance and outdoor clothing) is “increasingly shifting from a trend to a lifestyle, driven by consumers’ desire to be both stylish and comfortable at the same time and at all times.”
Given that the global apparel footwear market is worth $1.7trn and global sportswear is worth $282bn, “one in every six dollars we spend globally on apparel and footwear we spend on sportswear,” she said, adding: “It’s a big piece of the pie that’s definitely worth fighting for.”
At 6.5% growth, global sportswear sales are rising much faster than the general market with sports-inspired footwear rising an even faster 9.5%, all of which adds up to what Euromonitor forecasts to be $61bn worth of extra sales by 2021.
Growth is strong in both developed and emerging markets with India rising fastest (at 22%) and the potential in the UK apparent from the fact that per capita spend is currently $144 compared to over $300 in the US. “The UK, and Europe have a lot of catching up to do but they also represent a lot of opportunity,” Kondej said.
She also sees big opportunities in China where consumers are embracing athleisure. She said that “im 2012 we had double-digit growth for fashion, yet only 5% last year. But sportswear in 2016 saw 12% growth, a sign that athleisure is fit and well.”
WEAKNESS AND STRENGTH
Kondej said there are two strands running through the market at present that point to a fading of athleisure as a pure fashion trend but that also show its ongoing strength as a product category and a wider influencer.
“A lot of analysis and headlines over the past year said that athleisure was very popular but is now dying down. Is this true? There are some suggestions that it might be with some brands struggling to survive.”
She cited Yoga Smoga’s bankruptcy and also highlighted denim’s resurgence. After falling US sales in both 2014 and 2015, denim bounced back to 2% growth there last year and 4% globally.
But she said that while this may be a sign that some people are abandoning athleisure in favour of denim, it is also a reflection of how athleisure itself has moved into the denim sector.
“The jeans industry is now looking at ways of turning the athleisure trend into its own opportunity, as brands are designing denim for men and women with new stretch fibres and fabrics with more effective sweat management, which will make them feel much more like jogging bottoms and hoodies.” She cited Replay’s Hyper Skin that touted its denim as comfortable enough to work out in.
And Euromonitor expects athleisure’s influence to hit other categories such as underwear, swimwear, casualwear, tailoring (as manufacturers “introduce technology to make clothes comfortable on a daily basis”) as well as beauty products such as workout-proof make-up.
As a result of its wider influence and importance, Euromonitor expects the move of non-sports brands and stores such as Jack Wills, Debenhams, Maidenform and House of Fraser into the category to gather pace.
LUXURY AND LIFESTYLE
But while the mass and middle markets are important, Euromonitor believes premium and luxury are crucial to the evolution of athleisure, especially as rising global wealth leads more consumers to seek value in experiences rather than personal luxury goods.
Fflur Roberts, head of luxury goods at Euromonitor, said: “It's very much about status as [people] want to show that they care about their bodies, that they are health conscious about what they do, eat and wear.”
“Health is the new wealth,” she added, “and consumers are increasingly looking to health as a status symbol, from personalised fitness sessions to celebrity trainers, detox retreats, natural and alternative therapies… and of course the growth in designer athleisure.”
Roberts cited a number of moves that show how businesses are aiming to sell experiences as well as products, such as LVMH’s move into cycling via premium bike brand Pinarello to Selfridges opening its Body Studio and Lane Crawford its Fit Room.
“We asked consumers what health means to them and Millennials in particular said eating right and exercising,” Roberts explained. “Along with this trend for healthy eating and exercise we’re also seeing a trend for people to buy into the luxury apparel that goes with it. People want to look good in the gym while getting healthy.”
Euromonitor said growth in sports clubs and gyms from 2011 to 2016 was 9% in both developed and emerging markets and in the next five years it will rise to 10% in the former and a faster 13% in the latter.
The consumers who are devoting a hefty chunk of their disposable income to fitness and wellness are seen as prime targets for athleisure ranges at the upper end of the price scale, especially as such product become more fashion-focused.
2016 saw a marked increase in the number of fashion houses launching their own capsule sportswear collections as well as designers teaming up with athleisure and sportswear brands for performance wear as well as "après sport" or “gym-to-street”.
This complete lifestyle focus will put more emphasis on performance sportswear, which is expected to grow by $30bn compared to $24bn for sports-inspired clothing and accessories, said Bernadette Kissane, apparel and footwear analyst at Euromonitor.
And it should also lead to more specialist brand launches such as as female-focused cycle wear brand Nakeid. Hopping on the bandwagon created by the indoor cycling trend and studios such as Psycle and SoulCycle, it is part of the movement that sees athleisure being more than just a trend.
And Euromonitor said the performance-focused consumers who buy such brands are also seen as key targets for wearable technology.
Kissane cited sports giant Under Armour’s deep dive into wearable tech. The company has launched running shoes equipped with technology to tell the wearer whether or not their muscles are ready for a workout and has also introduced sleepwear featuring tech designed to aid muscle recovery.
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