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Social and digital fitness trends are having a profound impact on the sports industry. The growing popularity and emergence of programs and events such as CrossFit and The Color Run show that the consumer’s definition of fitness is evolving. While solo, gym workouts in the company of music streaming through headphones will not cease to exist, the popularity of dance party-style fun runs has only just begun. Add to that the digital fitness component; from heart rate monitoring to sleep tracking, digital fitness devices are tracking more than just our every waking move. This, too, is influencing the consumer’s relationship with fitness.

These trends are being driven by the Millennials – a generation which has changed and continues to change the landscape of retail. While it may seem as though we’ve heard enough about them by now, their influence cannot be overlooked. Millennials are a transitional generation – a link between the former generation and a truly digital one. They now outnumber Boomers and will comprise one-third of all retail sales in the next five years.

A critical difference between Millennials and their predecessors, the Boomers, is their approach to fitness. The Boomers who exercised frequently tended to buy a lot of expensive equipment and binge on an activity. Millennials, on the other hand, are committed to a healthy lifestyle, but in a much more lighthearted and less serious way. They don’t want to be defined by any one activity; they want to have fun and share those experiences with their friends, making fitness activities social ones.

Another key differentiator between Millennials and Boomers is the former’s reliance on technology for feedback in their fitness activity. Millennials want to measure, track, and share their fitness regime with their friends. As a result, awareness and sales of digital fitness devices have grown substantially in 2015, with sales growing nearly $22 million compared to 2014*, as a greater assortment of products offering a variety of features and price points has hit the market. With more features available, this has translated to more ways for fitness devices to be relevant across the spectrum of consumers from soccer moms to soccer players, and keep these consumers engaged.

Fitness has evolved from an independent activity to a social occasion. It’s an activity that can engage us with society just as much as it can provide a break from it. The digital component is adding yet another fresh spin on fitness. Together, these two trends are altering the way in which we think about sports and fitness. For brands and retailers to be successful, they must keep pace with the times and ride the wave of the next generation of consumers.

*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Retail Tracking Service, U.S. Sports Equipment, Annual 2015



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