What’s Driving Athletic Wear Sales?

image: Billie Ward (flickr)The athletic wear as regular wear trend has been going for a while. And when AdAge reported that Backpack Sales Rise as Professionals Ditch Briefcases it indicated to me that the “trend” was picking up steam among more than just hardcore fitness buffs.

There are several drivers that provide support to the idea that what we’re seeing is not just a fashion fad, but a longer term shift in consumer demand for apparel that is comfortable and sporty:

  • Healthy Living: For some, sports and fitness are not just daily activities, but a lifestyle. And as consumers are increasingly making plans on the fly, adjusting schedules on a moment’s notice, and deciding where to go, what to eat, and what to do based on real-time input from their friends, family, and coworkers, that means needing clothes and accessories for both “sweating and socializing.”
  • Popularity of Wearables: Many consumers who use wearables for tracking their activity are likely to be candidates for gear that helps them stay active throughout the day. If your goal is 10,000 steps a day, you might be in the market for comfortable shoes.
  • Growth in cities: As cities grow, traffic increases and driving becomes more onerous. Many residents bike and walk to work (and use public transportation) as a means of avoiding driving. This also means more people wanting comfortable clothes to wear on the way to work and clothes they don’t need to change out of once they get there.
  • Time Constraints: We’re constantly pulled in different directions and there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Consumers want gear that adapts to various parts of our lives –  stay in same basic outfit at work, to run errands, to work out, to go out for a drink, etc.
  • Casual Office Spaces: As the nature of work changes to more distributed and virtual tasks, the nature of the traditional office has also changed. The rise in coworking spaces, open layouts, startups, and more virtual work all contribute to a more casual office space which in turn makes it perfectly acceptable to wear sneakers, leggings, and other athletic gear at work.
  • Millennials: The newest generation of workers are the least likely to believe office wear has to be traditional and are more likely to adopt the casual attire of athletic wear. They’re also used to blurring everything, from mixing work time and personal time (such as answering work emails at home) to blending different food cultures, so it would be natural to try to blend casual and dressy.
  • Badges of identity: According to Kevin Osborn at Future in Focus, “People may be using athletic wear (as they use smartphones and certain brands) as a badge of identity, to signal to others who they are (I’m young, I’m fit, I care about my health) and what matters to them.”  It helps that athletic gear is more fitting and makes people look thinner.

All of these drivers influence a broad group of consumers and increase demand for athletic gear and associated products.

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