Regardless of whether or not exercise is on your daily schedule, it’s likely you’ve worn “workout clothes” while outside the home. This is reflected in retail sales figures over the past few years as standard favorites like denim jeans are on the decline, while active-wear is on the rise.
According to a piece by CBS News, “Americans spent nearly $44 billion on so-called ‘active wear’ [in 2015] up 16% over 2014. Meanwhile, denim sales have taken a hit, down 5% or more every year since 2013.”
A few years ago the discussion was around whether or not this trend would continue, but current figures support the notion that customers are increasingly willing to swap their high-luxury brand name for a look more aligned with their active lifestyle. As a result, companies are adjusting their product line to meet this demand offering comfy, functional, and fashionable clothing items equally appropriate for the gym or a night out with friends. This has sparked an entirely new category known as Athleisure.
This shift in preference has had a cultural/societal impact changing the way people look, act, and feel while out-and-about. As a research company, we were compelled to conduct our own study to better understand the trends and preferences within this growing market.
After conducting extensive secondary research to help narrow the scope of our study, we chose to address one of the most prominent Athleisure customer segments; Females, ages 18-34.
Our goal was to clarify circumstances around when Athleisure is deemed appropriate, the extent to which health and fitness are relevant in daily life, and other intriguing factors helping us better understand the average Athleisure customer.
If you browse through any brand’s Athleisure selection, it is apparent that key selling points are comfort and functionality. To see if this accurately reflects the wants and needs of the customer we asked respondents to rank-order a list of product attributes to convey what they deem important.
Comfort was ranked atop the list 62% of the time, far and beyond the most frequent #1 selection. The second most frequent attribute listed as #1 was Cost/Value (16%) followed by Style (11%). Functionality, on the other hand, was merely a middle-of-the-pack selection typically ranked between #4 and #6 of the 10 attributes provided. So if item functionality is of less concern, what then defines an “active lifestyle” to these Athleisurists?
Within our study we found despite its capability to withstand a good sweat, 36% of Female Athleisure customers claimed they only exercise “1-2 times a week.” The majority of our respondents (47%) exercise “3-4 times a week,” with only 17% exercising “5 or more times a week.” The vast majority of our respondents appear to exercise, but not at the rate one might think considering at its core Athleisure is fitness attire.
It may be due to scheduling restrictions, or it may be due to specific health goals, but less than half of our respondents (40%) indicated they have a gym membership and that they “love the gym,” whereas 15% have a gym membership but say they rarely go. Another group indicated that they forego the traditional gym membership in favor of “outside activity” (30%) or “other group classes” (5%).
If Athleisure attire is flying off the shelves (and into online shopping carts), but the gym is not of high importance to over half of our respondents, then where ARE these women wearing their yoga pants and microfiber tops?
If you’ve been on a High School or College campus lately, it won’t be surprising to hear that Athleisure attire is popular within the classroom. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents have at least “Some College” education, and the most frequently listed occupation is “Student” (12%). Albeit the most frequently listed, the fact remains that 88% of our respondents have varied occupations outside of a classroom. So we wanted to get a better idea of their willingness to garb Athleisure apparel in varied social settings.
Respondents were presented a series of locations and asked their willingness to wear Athleisure by percent of confidence. A low percentage indicates low willingness to wear Athleisure in that particular setting, whereas a high percentage indicates a high willingness. The results were; Grocery Store – 63.3%, Shopping Mall – 60.5%, Theater – 52.1%, Nice Restaurant – 34.8%, Dance Club/Bar – 20.6%. While some may draw the line at bars and restaurants, it is clear there are places for Athleisure outside the gym.
So what does all this mean? Sales figures clearly show this market is thriving and there’s no sign of slowing down. Isn’t this product basically selling itself?
While yes, the market is flush with customers ready and willing to spend $50-$150 per purchase (57%) this rising market is continually attracting new brands and businesses looking for a piece of the pie. As the market becomes increasingly saturated and competitive, carving out a specific niche can help focus marketing efforts and yield higher return on investment.
As seen within our study, Athleisure covers a wide variety of uses and lifestyles. To effectively compete in the future, it is important to deliver a specifically crafted message to a targeted group. This will not only help grow the brand image and connect with the core customer, it can help differentiate one brand from the long, growing list of competitors.
(PHOTO CREDIT: www.bodyloveathletica.com)