We live in a world that’s unapologetically crazy about products with multiple uses. So, when the idea of clothing you can wear for both athletic and leisure activities came up, it hit the ground running. That idea gave rise to the fast-growing Athleisure Industry as we know it today.
Athleisure—is a fusion of the word “athletic” and “leisure” used to describe an array of fashion apparel that you can wear for athletic and non-athletic purposes. Many years ago, premium and luxury brands took up the challenge to design clothing in this category. Today, the collection of athleisure apparel includes countless designs such as yoga pants, leggings, etc., that we wear anywhere and anytime—but, before now, that wasn’t the case.
Before things took a turn in the late 1970s, apparel companies were only focused on making clothes fit for sporting activities. The standard outfit then was the long-sleeved design. Later, these got replaced by the polo shirt worn by tennis players because they offer more breathable options.
The trend continued throughout the 20th century, with several new pieces of clothing designed to meet athletes’ needs. Then in the late 1970s, apparel companies began to create athletic clothing with different fabrics that have more moisture-wicking properties, odor-wicking technology, and improved breathability. When this feature became part of athletic wear, people began to wear them outside of athletic activities for their comfort. That kick-started the Athleisure Industry that has grown into what we now know.
- How Grown is the Athleisure Industry?
- Athleisure Industry—Key Market Segments
- Factors that Influence the Growth Rate of the Athleisure Industry
How Grown is the Athleisure Industry?
With the combination of sleek minimalist designs and functionalities, athleisure wear has played a primary role in the resurgence of sportswear in today’s fashion scene. This industry has supported the transition of clothing designs such as yoga pants, leggings, tank tops, joggers, crop tops, etc., that we can now wear anytime. Luxury and premium brands such as Alo Yoga, Epoque Evolution, Vuori Clothing, etc., carved out a niche and disrupted the distribution model in this segment. Today, everyone from Nike to Eres to Primark has launched athleisure lines, and they are cashing out in the vast $44 billion athleisure markets, according to an NPD Group research report.
According to the research report presented by Allied Market Research, the Global Athleisure Market by 2026 is projected to have become a $270 billion market. However, when the growth rate between 2012 and 2019 was measured, it was revealed that the industry has grown by forty-two percent (42%) within those seven years. As of 2018, the market was a $155.2 billion market. In 2020, the Athleisure industry, when valued, reported having experienced a thirty-percent growth. This growth is expected to continue for a long time, and by projection, in 2026, the market value will surpass the projected $270 billion. As a result of the undeniable growth, many players are jumping into the market—even brands that were not previously into the production of clothing are beginning to taper in the market space by creating their athleisure product lines.
Athleisure Industry - Key Market Segments
The athleisure global market can be segmented based on gender, product types, distribution channels, and region.
The two sub-segments of the athleisure product type segment are athleisure shoes and clothing. Of these two, the clothing segment is doing the best. There was not much to look for in product types designed for athletic use. The products made available were mainly polo shirts and long-sleeved shirts. However, that is not the case anymore as there are now a wide variety of athleisure products, from sneakers to joggers, hoodies, leggings, and others. To wear many of these product types as daily outfits used to be a crime in fashion. But the athleisure industry has grown, and this has made them acceptable in fashion. Athleisure products are now becoming a thing even in offices and work environments. Many employees now wear athletic shoes and comfortable tees to their offices.
When considered from the angle of gender, we can segment the athleisure market into male and female. The male segment accounts for the highest market share of these two sub-segments. That’s because, according to research findings, men do not care too much about fashion appeal. They care more about comfort, and athleisure products provide this utmost desire and look good at the same time. That’s why athleisure products such as casual trousers, bomber jackets, polo-shirts, crew-neck sweaters, and others have been gaining popularity among the male population.
The distribution channels for athleisure products are online and offline subdivisions. However, sales through the offline channel contribute the largest market share. In other words, people buy more athleisure products from offline stores than online ones. These offline stores constitute various footwear and apparel options from different brands and private labels. Research report expresses how customers prefer to try on the products before purchasing them, and only offline stores can facilitate such customer requirements. That’s why offline stores seem to thrive better in the distribution channel segment. However, online stores are not doing badly. They use several marketing strategies such as customer loyalty programs, seasonal offers, discounts, and others to boost sales.
Regarding region, the athleisure industry has gained root across Europe, North America, LAMEA, and Asia-Pacific. However, North America dominates the market in this segment. Going by the statistical report provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials currently constitute the largest demographic in the U.S. Millennials, by nature, prefer to be in apparel and footwear that is comfortable and flexible. Therefore, the athleisure market helps provide for such customer requirements, which leads to the high level of demand that the North Americans pull in the athleisure market. Also, due to the higher level of contribution, critical players in the global market, such as Adidas, Nike, Armor, and Texollini, have made considerable investments in the region and play a pivotal role in the region’s overall revenue contribution.
Factors that Influence the Growth Rate of the Athleisure Industry
Several factors have culminated in the rapid growth we’ve witnessed for the athleisure industry.
Renewed Focus on Material and Function
The pioneering idea behind athleisure shoes and apparel has been to make athletic clothing more comfy and suitable for exercise. Since the 1970s, with the renewed focus on function and material, the movement has received increasing support. So, as the clothing became more adaptable and comfortable, people began to wear them outside of exercise routines. Till today, athleisure material companies constantly improve their technology and materials. That’s why it’s possible to find athleisure apparel made from diverse materials such as; spandex, bamboo, and merino wool. Many of these fabrics are easy to wear and have found their way and fit into busy lifestyles. Some of the materials brands use in the making are so enhanced that they don’t wrinkle, have anti-odor properties, are durable, and breathable. They are also improved to be suitable for all kinds of weather.
Increase customer interest for Healthy Living
In the distant past, people hardly used to run or exercise. That’s something only those who were into sport did. So, if you were seen running or taking part in any form of exercise, the general assumption would be that you are preparing to participate in a sporting competition or something of that kind.
However, recently, the narrative changed. The trend for fitness and exercise started, and people began to see its importance. The introduction of various exercise forms such as yoga encouraged many people, and it soon became a household activity.
With this development came the growth of the athleisure industry. People look to wear certain types of clothing for exercise—ones that will enhance the process and not hinder it. Athleisure apparel and shoes provide these functions, so they become the go-to.
Covid-19 and Quarantine Season
When covid-19 came, it forced the world to go into quarantine. That year, the fashion industry struggled. For months, people had to stay home; boutiques could not open, no one was buying clothes offline and online. There was no need to. However, the athleisure brands flourished during this period as businesses began to make employees work from home. Business meetings began to take place in front of notebooks and laptops. Sweatpants, leggings, and loungewear quickly became office attire. According to a statistical report from True Fit’s Fashion Genome, athleisure orders have increased by 84% since the pandemic began. In the U.K., there was a five times increase in the sale of women’s athleisure outfits during this period, and that of the men went up by 20%. As more people work and take time to do at-home exercises, we can expect the growth rate to increase going forward.
Use of Influencer Landscape in the Athleisure Industry?
The use of influencers to push product sales is becoming popular in recent days. In 2020, Nike experienced a surge in product orders due to the Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram post. The post generated over $4.12 million in sales by My Company’s research report. Serena Williams also had a similar impact on Nike’s sales that year. The reason for this is not far-fetched. The world knows both athletes, far outside tennis and stadium, as the epitome of an active lifestyle and healthy living.
Many are keen to follow in their footsteps and do what they do. So, when they adopt certain athleisure wear into their lifestyles, many people are keen to do the same. That’s why brands work directly with athletes and other influencers. Some athletes design products relevant to the consumers and provide them to brands to produce. This strategy, in general, has brought significant income to the athleisure industry. When influencers wear athleisure shoes and clothes everywhere they go, consumers take after them and do the same—especially if the outfits look cool. We see a lot of such drive-ins in modern-day society, telling us about customer behavior and how they have a significant impact on the industry at large.
Looking at the rate of growth and general acceptance of the athleisure industry, we can conclude that the industry is here to stay. With the increased demand for comfortable fashion, the industry is yet to reach its highest growth potential.