Aug 18, 2017
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Athleisure to stay market driver as Asos prepares for major launch, Umbro unveils ambassador

Aug 18, 2017

It’s no use trying to estimate when the end of the athleisure trend will happen because it won’t. Thats the view of analysts at GlobalData who said in a new report that Asos’s decision to target the £2.5bn sports apparel market is a reflection of the category’s durable appeal.


And the latest brand campaign and collection launch from Umbro also highlights how everyone is getting in on the act, not just the global giants of sport and retail.

GlobalData said that by reaching £2.5bn by the end of this year, the market will have grown as much as 8% over 12 months, which is very healthy growth in an apparel market hit by changing consumer behaviour and shoppers constantly seeking bargains. By contrast, the researcher predicts that the overall UK clothing market will rise only 2.1% this year, demonstrating the extent to which sportswear is outperforming other clothing segments.


The company said that fashion retailers in particular have picked up on the trend for sportswear and will continue to invest as consumer demand for fashion-led sports apparel remains high. And it added that the trend is also supporting heritage brand revivals. “Even sports brands from the 1980s and 1990s such as Kappa and Ellesse are tapping into market opportunities, due to a resurgence in consumer demand following high profile attention via Instagram influencers,” GlobalData said.

The Asos move is also key. Following the successful launch of third party sports brands earlier in the year, it will launch its own label sportswear range in November, putting it in direct competition with pureplay and omnichannel peers including H&M, Boohoo, Primark, New Look, Ted Baker, Topshop, Whistles and Superdry.

But even though the market is increasingly crowded, the researcher expects the Asos launch to drive further overall market growth with higher activewear spend per head. It also expects the e-tailer to gain a strong foothold in the market given its broad appeal, fashion credentials and loyal shopper following.


Fiona Paton, Retail Analyst for GlobalData, said: “Sales growth in athleisure is set to peak in 2017 but it will remain a very popular category over the next five years, outperforming total clothing. The health & wellbeing trend, influence of high profile fitness bloggers and continued investment from the [UK] government in initiatives such as improving cycle routes will increase consumer participation in sport and exercise – providing retailers with a larger, more varied activewear customer base.”


The report said that gym fitness, swimming and running are the preferred activities among women and girls and all have seen an increase in participation levels over the last year according to GlobalData’s survey of 10,000 UK consumers.

The wellness trend has contributed to this shift, with health and fitness bloggers such as Ella Woodward, Joe Wicks and Shaun T gaining a substantial following and subsequently raising awareness of healthy living and the benefits of regular exercise, which all supports the athleisure market.

Paton added: “As fashion retailers such as New Look, Primark and Asos invest in affordable, trend-led own brand sportswear ranges, female shoppers have access to more choice, will spend more on impulse and will purchase athleisure pieces in replacement of core casualwear items.

All of which might be bad news for ‘traditional’ fashion and clothing makers. But the researcher thinks that non-sports specialists can lean on their fashion credentials and skills in interpreting seasonal trends quickly to ensure regular newness and that collections remain relevant.

We’ve already seen brands such as Levi’s transforming its women’s denim offer with the addition of materials technology to give a more comfortable feel and athleisure look to their product line-up.


At the same time as more traditional brands will feel athleisure’s impact, it could force sports players such as Sports Direct and others to increase their fashion profile.

This effect could be seen in mid-August as football specialist Umbro announced its autumn collection. The brand named US women’s football star Ashlyn Harris as its face and the collection she’s promoting is focused heavily on mixing both performance with lifestyle as well as maximising Umbro’s heritage appeal. The collection features heritage pieces such as the diamond track jacket and football boots mixed with branded sports lifestyle apparel for men and women including T-shirts, leggings, joggers, sports bras and tops.


But sport brands also need to tap into another key trend, that of experiences, to reach out to the athleisure-minded consumer.

“In order to compete in the increasingly crowded sportswear market, more premium brands must find ways of increasing destination appeal, such as working with high-profile celebrities or fitness and sports personalities and enhancing social engagement,” GlobalData’s Paton added. “Sweaty Betty, Nike and Lululemon are strong examples of brands already engaging with their customers via free gym classes, VIP discounts, and yoga and running clubs – services the non-specialists will find difficult to replicate.”

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