Health, Wellness Focus Reshapes Apparel Footwear

With 44 percent of U.S. consumers placing more focus on their overall health and wellness today than they did before the pandemic, apparel, footwear, and sports equipment categories rooted in comfort and outdoor lifestyles are growing in sales.

Corresponding with consumers’ evolving definition of wellness, January through April sales for comfort and athleisure clothing, performance-based footwear styles, and outdoor and sports equipment grew significantly since pre-pandemic 2019 — and sales also remain elevated compared to last year, according to The NPD Group.

Diet and exercise continue to lead in terms of consumers’ health and wellness priorities; however, areas including wearing comfortable clothing and limiting screen time all grew in importance, according to findings from an NPD survey done in conjunction with CivicScience.

In the apparel market, activewear sales revenue increased by 39 percent, from January through April 2022, versus 2019, compared to non-active apparel which grew 1 percent, according to Consumer Tracking Service data from NPD.

“To look their best, people must also feel their best,” said Maria Rugolo, apparel industry analyst at NPD. “And while people still want to look fashionable, comfort and versatility remain key reasons why they make a clothing purchase for themselves. With changing economic times, versatile items that can be worn for various occasions and seasons can ease consumers into making an investment during uncertain times.”

Wellness is making its mark on the footwear industry, as well. Sales of running and hiking footwear grew by about 20 percent through April, versus three years ago, and walking shoes grew more than 30 percent, as interest in these fitness and leisure activities have increased since the start of the pandemic.

“Today, wellness and comfort go hand-in-hand, and the sales data shows that consumers are increasingly purchasing running and walking shoes for casual, everyday use,” said Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst at NPD. “Comfort has always been the top footwear feature in terms of importance or purchase driver, but its role has evolved; the comfort has become the fashion.”

In addition to footwear and apparel, sports equipment products enabling consumers to embrace the outdoors and enhance outdoor experiences are also sticking around. In fact, outdoor industry revenue is 25 percent higher in 2022 than it was in 2019, according to Retail Tracking Service data from NPD. Sales revenue increased for camping accessories, coolers, rock climbing equipment, team sports equipment, high-end bikes, and other products.

“Consumers are broadening their definition of wellness, as the pandemic increased our focus on our inner and mental health,” said Dirk Sorenson, sports industry analyst at NPD. “As we reemerge from the pandemic, there are durable habits that consumers have learned to embrace, from getting outside to investing in products that bring us joy.”

For more information, visit npd.com.

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