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Athleisure’s Market Share Grows as Trend Becomes Staple

The athleisure category has grown to represent 24 percent of total apparel industry sales and has gone from trend to key category according to a “Future of Apparel” study from The NPD Group.

Items like yoga pants, sweatpants and hoodies are now fashion staples in the U.S. for lots of activities other than going to the gym, NPD noted. The consumer tracking and analytics company said the athleisure category took hold gradually as societal norms changed–Casual Fridays become casual every day office attire, health and fitness grew in importance and crossed generations, and the desire for comfort and versatility became paramount for men and women.

“I’m often asked if the athleisure trend is going to fade away and the answer is no,” Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor-retail, said. “When you have comfort and function combined with fashion, it’s difficult to go back to anything else on a regular basis.”

Athleisure has caused the blurring of lines in apparel segments. This runs from denim with stretch, fiber blends and silhouettes that spread out the traditional market to technical synthetic tops going from the playing field to the club and knit sneakers taking the place of casual shoes.

For Polartec, the evolution of performance fabrics from activewear to athleisure has now reached the next step in the timeline—“tech casual”—as defined by CEO Gary Smith.

“That’s why the concepts of comfort and performance have given way to tech casual,” Smith said. “People just expect that the clothes they buy for certain conditions will perform the way they need them to and be comfortable.”

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NPD’s tracking of consumer apparel purchases found that sales of sweatshirts increased by double-digits and active bottoms by ticked up 5 percent in the year through June. Total dollars spent in sweats and active bottoms is expected to increase through 2019 based on strong performances across various categories, the study found, which includes forecasts through 2019 for important apparel categories and consumer insights and analysts’ viewpoints.

Athleisure’s staying power and growth strong across ages and demographics. For example, social shoppers, a consumer segment identified in the report as representing the largest portion of the population, are indicative of the athleisure consumer. They consider themselves to be social, fashion and image conscious, and activewear is a key part of their future purchase plans.

“The athleisure movement and influence on fashion continues to be a primary driver of growth opportunity for the apparel industry,” Cohen added. “Other apparel categories are declining, which tells us that consumers are getting just what they need and want in athleisure wear. There is no doubt that the category will continue to evolve, but it’s definitely here to stay for the foreseeable future.”