A surge in sportswear sales has been powered by the fashion conscious – who may not want to exercise but want to wear the latest trends.
The rise of athleisure is now a driving force in pushing up sales as retailers make a grab for a slice of the action. Research from Mintel estimates that sales of sports goods will reach a personal best of £7 billion in 2016, up six per cent compared to 2015.
Samantha Dover, retail analyst at Mintel, said: “The sports goods market continues to grow at an exceptional rate. “Driven by a rising interest in health and wellness among young consumers, coupled with an increasing acceptance of casual dressing, the athleisure trend is dominating the sector.
“The success of the market has seen increasing levels of competition from nonspecialists, and more than ever, retailers need to establish their position in a crowded sector.”
Half (50 per cent) of those who have bought sports clothing, footwear, equipment or accessories in the past 12 months (up to May 2016) did so for non-sports use. And, while 34 per cent have bought fashionable sportswear that can be worn when not exercising, 11 per cent have purchased celebrity sportswear collections.
Furthermore, one third (32 per cent) of purchasers say they prefer to buy from sports retailers who follow the latest fashion trends.
It also seems that high levels of consumer interest in health and wellness trends is also driving growth in the athleisure market.
Currently, over half (53 per cent) of UK consumers take part in sport at least once a week, with almost one in six (16 per cent) exercising five times a week or more.
Younger consumers, in particular, are taking the ‘no pain, no gain’ mantra to heart, with over one quarter (28 per cent) of those aged 16-24 exercising five times a week or more.
As a result, younger consumers are the most likely group to have bought sports products over the past year, with three in four (75 per cent) Brits aged 16-24 purchasing new items. Of those who have bought sports goods in the past year, 45 per cent did so for running or jogging. In comparison, over one quarter (28 per cent) bought new sports gear for going to the gym and 23 per cent did so for cycling.
When deciding which items to invest in, it seems it’s a case of the best foot forward as trainer sales are gaining speed.
Of specialist sporting goods sales, Mintel forecasts that footwear sales will make up 34 per cent in 2016, up from 29 per cent in 2014.
However, clothing will still dominate at 54 per cent; however, this is down from 59 per cent in 2014.
And to prove the impact on the sector, JD Sports have stated that the trend for athleisure was largely responsible for the company posting record half-yearly pre-tax profits.
The 66 per cent jump, a leap of £77.4m, is the third consecutive year of growth for the group and is being put down partly to the strong demand in the athleisure market.
Peter Cowgill, executive chairman, said: “This has been another period of excellent progress for the Group with a record profit before tax and exceptional items of £77.4 million (2015: £46.6 million).
“Given that last year’s result was in itself a record, for our Group then to increase this by a further 66 per cent has exceeded reasonable expectations.
“The favourable trends for athletic-inspired footwear and apparel in Europe have continued into this year.”
The Group’s Sports Fashion saw profits increasing by a further 53 per cent to £79.9 million (2015: £52.1 million).
Extreme sports and leisurewear chain Animal is also aware of the importance of the athleisure market.
Karl Reid, Head of Design, Animal, said: “I think its safe to say that everyone must have noticed the rise in Athleisure/ Active wear.
“AW-16 is now our second season offering the “Animal Active” range.
“There was once a time when the consumer would be fine with wearing a pair of baggy sweat pants and a T-Shirt to participate in their chosen sport, activity or to just lounge around in.
“Times have now changed and people want product that boasts innovation, technical performance fabrics and features while still being fashionable and comfortable.
“People want product they can look and feel great in but at the same time it has an aspirational lifestyle feel about it.
“You just need to look around at how many brands and high street retailers are offering this product now, so it’s important for us to have our own approach to it.
“We don’t want to be competing with cheap high street imitations, for us, combining fashion with function is key.
“We want to make product that performs great, focuses on functional fabrics and features for the girl that lives an active outdoor lifestyle but is still fashion conscious.
“It’s now acceptable to wear this product in a nonactive environment.
“Although our range caters for your active/fitness fanatic, we still have styles in the Active Collection that make it wearable when worn together with nonactive product.”
Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s are also getting in on the act as their Tu clothing line has launched a new range of athleisure sportswear in more than 170 stores.
The market is estimated to be worth $194bn worldwide, and is growing in importance as the boundaries between workplace, home and leisure pursuits are increasingly blurred.
James Brown, Director of Non-Food Trading at Sainsbury’s, said: “Men and women of all ages are embracing the concept of more casual dressing.
“There is definitely a trend towards people wearing sport-inspired fashion throughout the day because it fits in with the way people live their lives these days.
“We’ve designed our ‘athleisure’ range to be stylish, comfortable and great quality and it’s a growing part of our clothing offer this year because we believe it’s exactly what our customers want to buy.
“Shopping for clothing in supermarkets has become firmly established, and our strategy of offering customers high street style at supermarket prices in an attractive, department storestyle setting has helped us to increase our market share.
“Over 8 million customers bought clothing from us over the past year and clothing at Sainsbury’s is heading towards a £1bn business.
“We are now the sixth largest clothing retailer by volume, up from seventh place last year.”
Sainsbury’s has also launched a new Admiral range for men – the Admiral Performance collection.