Is activewear a bubble set to burst?

At the last count, wellness was a growing industry worth $3.4 trillion. Mindsets are shifting on a global scale; what used to be considered ‘health’ has grown into ‘wellness’ and it’s become a focus for everyone from Generation Z through to Baby Boomers. Wellness is about more than food and exercise, it’s a way of life. Consumers, both male and female, are recognising that everything inside them works together, from diet and fitness to beauty, mental health and nutrition.

Unsurprisingly, as wellness becomes a priority for consumers, so they’re investing heavily in it. Take wellness tourism as just one example; according to the Global Wellness Tourism Congress this is an industry already worth $439 billion, with predicted growth of a huge 55% by 2017.

That investment boom is also stark in the activewear category. A few years ago people carried kit around in their gym bags, changing just before and just after exercise, never to be seen dead in public wearing leggings. Now though, you don’t look twice at the dozens of people you pass fully kitted out on a daily basis (I’m definitely one of them).

Consumers are wearing activewear much more frequently and a wealth of brands has sprung up to fulfil that trend. Net-a-Porter famously launched Net-a-Sporter last year, finally giving the fashion seal of approval to those wanting to live and promote their active lifestyle. Whether you’re in the market for Lucas Hugh’s £280 Nordica stretch leggings or GapFit’s £40 offering is more your style, activewear brands are appearing, and flourishing, at all price points.

‘It’s a phase. It’s a bubble set to burst. There’s no way consumers are going to keep investing in activewear at this rate. It’s a saturated market’. Discussion is rife… Are these sceptics right?

As with any busy market place, some brands will undoubtedly fall by the wayside but being active is here to stay. We predict particular boosts for activewear brands in 2 areas:

Mid-range – premium brands. £70 – 95 for a pair of leggings is much more palatable if you’re wearing them 4 times a week and heading straight to brunch after class. Plain black Nike or Adidas versions are no longer the norm. Consumers want to stand out and get noticed for their activewear choices and they’re prepared to pay more to do just that.

Technical brands. Innovation is going to be key, partly because consumers are taking exercise more seriously and aligning themselves with professional standards and partly because terminology like ‘moisture-wicking’ has slipped into everyday vernacular and consumers recognise the benefits of it. This doesn’t have to mean tops that monitor your heartrate but compression fabrics and UV protection are definitely going to help close a sale.

Within these areas, those who come out on top will share common traits – a strong brand personality, an entrepreneurial spirit, a real passion for the industry. They’ll be lifestyle brands, attracting and retaining their audience not just with their products but also through their ambassadors, their shoots, their classes, their brand partnerships.

We think that marketing is going to have a huge role to play, and we’re really looking forward to being involved with those brands that have ambitious plans for the future.

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