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Survival of the Fittest

Apr 10, 2017
Maria Rugolo, Director, Industry Analyst ;
Apparel

Ivy Park, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, and Calvin Klein are not your “traditional” athletic apparel brands, but they are making their presence known within the activewear category. The definition of athletic continues to evolve. More fashion-centric brands are embracing this lifestyle change, especially within women’s apparel, making it more inclusive of all brands. And boy, oh boy, there are a lot of brands.

The number of activewear brands still continues to grow. There are nearly thirty percent* more brands reported by consumers than there were just two years ago…that’s nearly five hundred* more brands! With everyone jumping on the active bandwagon, when will activewear sales slowdown?  Well, that depends on the brand.

Lululemon revolutionized the premium athletic legging market but saw stock prices dive over 20 percent – their March 29 th investor call reported a slow start to 2017 resulting from a lack of depth and color in their spring assortment. And though some other factors, like weather, a late spring and delayed tax refund checks have plagued 2017’s performance across many brands, I can’t help but wonder, was this just a blip or a sign of more troubles to come for the brand?

The brand’s once unique yoga-inspired niche is now faced with competition across various price-points. While some consumers will remain loyal to the brand, there will be others that find solace in lower-priced options that are “good enough,” especially in today’s overly promotional retail environment. Consumers are trained to seek out a deal – half** of apparel consumers said they plan to rarely, or never, pay full price for their clothing in 2017.

Though dollar sales growth of women’s active apparel bottoms has slowed to five percent*** from the double-digit gains experienced just one year ago, women are still buying more. There were 118 million*** more women’s active bottoms sold in the 12 months ending February 2017 than what was sold just five years ago, clearly showing that this apparel item is a part of her everyday lifestyle, and it is not about to go away.

Along with the active world, the fashion world is addressing the consumer’s need for comfort. Whether it is the blurring of denim and active, pajamas going from sleep to street, or overall versatility, the options are endless. This bodes well for the consumer, who can be picky and select the right choice for her needs and her wallet. But, it puts added pressure on brands to differentiate from the growing field of competition, while connecting to their consumer to get their fair share. In this sea of brands it will be a survival of the fittest, pun intended. 

 

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Dec 2016*
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Omnibus Feb 2017**
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Feb 2017***


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