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Trends Shaping the Athletic Apparel Industry Outlook For 2020

Growth of “Athleisure”

The distinction between traditional gym clothing and casual wear is becoming less noticeable, especially given the context of the current pandemic. The athletic apparel industry is offering more options that will allow wearers to easily transition between leisure and exercise. Some in the industry have dubbed this trend “Athleisure”, which now includes yoga pants, jogger pants, tank tops, sports bras, hoodies. Customers are interested in trimming down their wardrobes and buying key pieces of apparel that can be worn in different contexts.

Rise of Yoga Culture

Fashion searches for yoga clothing have grown in 2020, and sales of yoga-related products at Lyst have risen 42%. Athletic wear customers are opting for more color in their yoga products as well. People are beginning to ditch traditional grey yoga clothing for pastel colors such as baby pink, light blue, and beige. Demand for pastel colors has extended beyond yoga clothing and into the larger athletic apparel industry as traditional black and white colors are being dumped.

Increased Demand for Sustainably Sourced Apparel

Customers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, demanding more transparency about how their clothing was produced and the sustainable clothing trends are following. Some clothing apparel websites allow users to sort through products by their preferred sustainability credentials. Additionally, major companies such as Reebok are highlighting some of their sustainable products made with organic cotton.

More athletic wear companies are using products such as recycled polyester and low-impact non-toxic dyes. This concern is also extended to the factories where the clothing is produced. Companies such as Patagonia have made pledges to lower energy use and emissions at its factories. Finally, several companies phased out the use of plastic in packaging.

More Interest in Fair Labor Promotion

More athletic wear companies are examining their supply chain to ensure that fair labor practices and working conditions are enforced. Corporate responsibility is a movement that is urging companies to take responsibility for their impact on customers, employees, communities, and the environment. This includes committing to following international labor standards.

In response, some athletic wear companies have increased transparency, publishing lists of their suppliers. Additionally, other companies have sought labor certifications for their products. The Social Accountability International Standard measures the performance of companies on nine elements related to labor rights.

90s Influence in Athletic Apparel

The 90s is making a return in the athletic wear industry in line with the emergence of the athleisure trend. Also, athletic apparel experts have posited that 90s athletic wear has a nostalgic appeal for the millennial market. For women, lightweight and breathable crop tops and leggings with twists on classic designs are in style.

Another re-emerging 90s product is the color-blocked windbreaker jacket. Many companies such as Columbia are starting to offer windbreakers that pay homage to the 90s. For men, athletic wear companies are experimenting with oversized and irregular fit pieces. Additionally, hoodies sporting large logos and flashy track jackets have regained popularity.

One-Piece Activewear Popularity Rising

One-piece workout clothing such as bodysuits, leotards, and catsuits experienced an 83% percent increase this past year. More women are replacing leggings with head-to-toe spandex outfits. Celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez and Alessandra Ambrosio have popularized this trend. Other indie labels have noticed this trend and are offering bodysuits that have more aesthetic appeal. For a lot of ladies, this trend is polarizing: you either love it or hate it.

More Size Inclusivity

Big brand names in the athletic apparel industries are shifting and creating new products to accommodates consumers across all clothing sizes. Consumers are demanding that companies demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Companies such as Fashercise have adopted a “curve” brand while other bigger companies have expanded the size of athletic clothing offered.

More apparel brands are abandoning labels such as plus-size and petite. Additionally, the appearance of more diverse clothing models is part of this trend.

Technology for Personalization and Smart Clothing

With advances in clothing production technology, brands can offer more customization and smart clothing for their customers. Websites are offering customers for avenues to customize their products. Nike is a leader in this field, allowing customers to select a pair of custom shoes from a wide range of combinations.

Additionally, smart clothing developments are going mainstream allowing customers to monitor their health and wellness. Some smart clothing can track how the wearer moves while wearing clothes. Technology is also being used to make better recommendations for apparel that suits the customer’s preferences. Lululemon is a leader in the launch of smart clothing in the athletic wear industry.

Increased Interest from Chinese Consumers

Fashion trends in China are making athletic wear popular to wear across social and fitness contexts. The rise of athleisure is a new development in the country and is expected to grow. Business expert, Euromonitor, reported that athletic wear sales grew faster than luxury goods over the last five years. On average, Chinese consumers own only 2.5 t-shirts, 2 tank tops, 2 pairs of shorts, and 2 compression shirts. This relatively low number combined with the increased popularity of sports such as running will provide opportunities for the sportswear industry to grow in China.

Streetwear Apparel Styles

More brands are making unisex clothing both in color and style, especially for street fleeces and jogging pants. Men are now increasingly wearing leggings and bicycle shorts and women are wearing jogging pants instead of leggings. Women’s sweatshirts and fleeces are often paired with joggers while the sleeves are still baggy. Brands such as Supreme are known for producing activewear with short product lifespans, building exclusivity, and ramping up demand.

10 Statistics to Know for the Sportswear Industry

1. Nike is the most popular brand among Chinese activewear consumers

According to Euromonitor’s research, 26% of Chinese activewear consumers report having purchased Nike clothing followed closely by Adidas (20%). This stat shows that the Chinese consumer base is receptive to Western brands for athletic apparel. Like the U.S., the athleisure trend has taken off in China with the help of celebrity endorsements. It is especially popular among the younger generation in China.

2. The U.S. athletic apparel market is the largest in the world

The U.S. market for athleticwear is expected to grow to 69.2 billion in 2020 up from 54.3 billion in 2015.This will account for 36% of athletic apparel sales worldwide as more brands operating in the U.S. push to offer athletic clothing. About 9 out of 10 American consumers say that they were athletic apparel in contexts other than exercise. Particularly, cotton activewear is popular with about 60% of consumers preferring the material.

3. There are 85% more yoga products in stock year-to-year at active retailers in the U.S.

The healthy lifestyle industry has gone beyond food and into sportswear retail. Mainstream athletic apparel suppliers such as Nike, Under Armor, and Adidas have significantly grown their investment in yoga apparel. One potential area of growth within the yoga apparel is in the men’s market. The stock of men’s items grew 26% year-over-year and is expected to keep growing in 2020.

4. In the past year, athletic apparel arrivals described as “recycled” were up 642% for men and 388% for women

This highlights the rapid spread of the eco-friendly sportswear culture in the U.S. Athletic wear suppliers should look into investment in repurposed clothing and labeling to highlight their recycled materials. Within the sportswear market, sustainable footwear has become especially popular and companies have pledged to use only recycled plastics in products.

5. The number of athletic wear styles at plus-size retailers has doubled from last year

At retailers that cater to diverse size ranges such as Lane Bryant and Simply Be, there has been a substantial increase in the selection of athletic apparel on websites. Giant retailers such as Target have launched entire lines of athletic wear that run from XS-4X for women and S-3X for men.

6. The number of athletic wear products described using the term “moisture-wicking” grew by 39% this past year

This statistic points to the high-tech clothing trend which includes “smart” clothing and clothing that tracks health indicators. Consumers are paying more attention to the materials used in production and want clothes that minimize sweat and moisture. The activewear products using fabrics described as “breathable” also grew 85%.

7. The athletic apparel market is roughly 60% women and 40% men

This points to the rising popularity of yoga clothing which grew at 144% compared to last year compared to 26% indicating increasing options focused on women. The wealthy, those who earn over $100,000, are the drivers of purchases in the yoga clothing niche.

8. Athletic apparel consumers are 44% more likely to shop in-store

At the start of 2020, consumers where almost half as likely to shop in-store compared to online. While they do purchase clothing online, they prefer to conduct product research and look for deals and then go to stores. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely impact this statistic as people try to minimize non-essential trips to retail stores.

9. The global athletic apparel market is predicted to be valued at $580 billion by 2025

This high expected growth can be attributed to the growth of the women’s market and the emergence of millennial consumers in India and China. Market growth should allow more people to mobilize under movements such as sustainable clothing and fair labor.

10. The athleisure industry is expected to be valued at $83 billion at the end of 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the ascent of the already growing athleisure trend within the athletic apparel industry. This trend is especially popular among the younger demographic and is spreading around the world.