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Activewear Sales Slip in Athletic Specialty Channel

Activewear is having a tough time in the athletic specialty and sporting goods channels, thanks to consumers’ changing perceptions of sportswear.

As shoppers increasingly buy activewear for everyday errands, not exercise, brands that sell in specialty stores are struggling to compete in a crowded space. According to The NPD Group, this shift is affecting sales of technical athletic products.

In August, less than a third of dollar sales went toward using activewear for athletic activities, as shoppers continued to buy activewear for fashion purposes. Although activewear dollar sales within department stores increased by 5 percent, activewear dollar sales weren’t stellar in the sporting goods channel.

“There is a lot of noise in the activewear market right now, as more manufacturers are marketing products that originally weren’t considered active or athletic apparel,” said Matt Powell, NPD’s vice president and sports industry analyst. “Because activewear is so broadly used, available and defined by the sports and fashion industries, some of the bigger, authentic brands are feeling pressure.

The number of consumers buying activewear for workouts is the lowest it’s been in four years. Activewear spending instead has skyrocketed for work, social weekend activities and recreational fun. For actual sports use, aerobic apparel sales have increased since 2014, but purchases of running clothing have decreased. Retailers that have built themselves around technical athletic apparel have found it challenging to keep up with trends, as fashion brands across the board continue to jump on the activewear bandwagon.

“As always, though, the key for the authentic brands is innovation,” Powell said. “Truly technical products that help athletes perform at a high level will always trump the non-performance fashion brands.”