More brands and manufacturers are competing for a place in the crowded activewear space, causing shifts to happen in terms of consumer perception and shopping outlets of choice, according to finding from The NPD Group. In the sports space, this is having an impact on more traditional and technical athletic product sales.
Looking at channel performance, activewear dollar sales grew year-to-date through August within department stores and national chains, by 5 percent and 3 percent, respectively, but declined within athletic specialty and sporting goods – the more traditional channel for activewear products. This channel also accounts for more activewear dollar sales than department stores and national chains combined.
“There is a lot of noise in the activewear market right now, as more manufacturers are marketing products that originally weren’t considered active or athletic apparel. Because activewear is so broadly used, available and defined by the sports and fashion industries, some of the bigger, authentic brands are feeling pressure. With the closing of some notable sporting goods chains this year, we see that the specialty channel has also felt some heat,” said Matt Powell, vice president and sports industry analyst, The NPD Group.
In terms of consumers’ primary intended use of activewear, through August less than one-third of dollar sales went toward using these types of products for athletic activities – the lowest percentage in four years. At the same time, share has grown for activewear spend towards work use and recreational or social weekend activities, says NPD. Looking at sport use, purchases of activewear for aerobic/fitness-based activities have increased and the growth rate has accelerated over the past two years, while purchases for running use have dipped, tying into the idea that consumers’ activewear spend is becoming tied more so to lifestyle than to technical purposes.
“More and more, consumers, brands, and retailers alike are interpreting activewear in differing ways. This is especially having an impact on those more traditional manufacturers who have built a reputation around technical, athletic apparel,” said Powell. “As always, though, the key for the authentic brands is innovation. Truly technical products that help athletes perform at a high level will always trump the non-performance fashion brands.”