Activewear: Beyond Performance

The activewear market is booming.

A rise in wellness lifestyles has fuelled a recent growth in the sportswear market.

In the UK alone, sportswear is a £2.5 billion industry and with forecasters expecting it to continue growing over the next five years.

Despite its meteoric growth over the last few years, sports clothing is not a newcomer to the fashion world. Indeed, older readers may remember Sergio Tacchini and Fila tracksuits being on trend back in the 1980s. However, most analysts see the recent demand as something different. Rather than simply being a fashion choice, this is part of something much bigger. A cultural shift that is here to stay. One word has come to define this movement: Athleisure.

More than just clothing choices, athleisure is part of a wider wellness lifestyle. Fuelled by the rise of social media influencers (and aspiring fitness gurus), exercise is now seen as cool. In a recent poll, 53% of UK consumers exercised at least once a week, whilst 16% trained at least 5 times a week. With this considered, it is therefore unsurprising that another research project discovered that more than 50% of consumers bought at least one piece of activewear clothing last year.

High street and online retailers have reacted to this demand, with fashion brands such as H&M, Primark, New Look, ASOS and Boohoo introducing their own sportswear ranges to compete against the athleisure pioneers, such as Sweaty Betty and Lulu Lemon. Amidst such fierce competition, there is a risk that the market will become saturated despite its ongoing growth. To stand out from the crowd, retailers must differentiate their offering and set their brand apart.

Here at OGUK, we feel that the customer experience is key to this and have developed our ‘Performance Fashion’ supply service to help our retail partners meet their customers’ needs and expectations. Consumers want functionality, comfort and versatility from their clothing. Therefore, garments marketed towards these health-conscious consumers need to incorporate the latest technological innovations to maximise performance, whilst being stylish and comfortable enough to be worn out and about.

Are eco-friendly fabrics the future?

Additionally, with the recent high-profile criticism of the fashion industry for its damaging practices, steps must be taken to start offering more eco-friendly alternatives as consumers become more conscious of the environmental footprint of their purchases. Whilst little headway has been made into the mainstream market yet, there are plenty of yarns available that are sustainable and offer better performance than polyester and cotton. Among them are Tencel®, Bamboo and Repreve®, the latter of which is a polyester fibre made from recycled bottles.

Ultimately, the athleisure trend offers a fantastic opportunity for retailers amidst difficult market conditions. However, it will be those who continue to adapt and innovate that will maximise their returns as the market evolves and grows over the next few years.