February 18, 2020 by Sujay Seetharaman

Hilary Duff has joined the activewear fan club and shared one of her latest finds: a Nike Sportswear Women’s Jumpsuit. 

Her love for polyester jumpsuits and form-fitting yoga pants isn’t unique by any means. Originally, activewear was clothing worn for exercise and athletic purposes. Today, however, it’s not just professional athletes and marathon runners who flock to Lululemon, Nike and Beyond Yoga. Activewear, in recent years, has become a thriving consumer market. Many fashion brands have started developing their own leggings and yoga pants in order to cash in on the athleisure fever that has gripped consumers.

In this blog post, we take a look at the activewear industry landscape, growth factors, key players, and how they differ in terms of performance metrics such as traffic, channel presence, and social engagement.

 

Activewear Market Size snapshot

Although they’re used interchangeably, there’s a subtle difference between Activewear and Athleisure. Activewear is anything you’d wear when you’d want to break a sweat. Athleisure sits at the intersection of exercise and leisure.

The global activewear market was worth an estimated $398 billion in 2019, growing at a 6.8% CAGR.

global activewear market size

North America makes up an estimated 40% of all activewear sales worldwide, followed by Europe (30%) and APAC (26%). In terms of growth, APAC is the fastest-growing region, registering a CAGR of 8%. China, Japan, and South Korea lead in terms of value, while India at 13.9% CAGR, is the fastest-growing market.
Women’s activewear accounts for 35% of the overall activewear market. Unlike the traditional sports apparel market which caters primarily to men, activewear’s audience (not buyers!) is largely women. As of 2018, Women’s activewear GMV was around
5 times the GMV of Women’s traditional sports apparel.

 

global active wear market share across LATAM, APAC, Europe, North America

Source: PipeCandy & other Third-party research reports

Most activewear brands are overwhelmingly concentrated in the United States, especially small-medium sized brands. The exceptions are Nike, ASICS, Alo Yoga, and Puma. Nike has a strong international presence, ASICS and Alo Yoga dominate Europe and East Asia, and Puma has a strong foothold in the Indian market. 

 

Activewear Industry outlook

Growth drivers of the activewear market

The activewear market is growing fast, thanks to the rising awareness among younger adults, who are becoming more health-conscious, seeking out fitness and wellness activities such as gymming, sports, and yoga. Also, technological improvements to synthetic fiber that have made products like spandex more flexible, durable, and washable than natural materials, celebrity collaborations with D2C and designer activewear brands and the gradual blurring of lines between work attire and workout attire continue to propel this industry forward.

millennial women in activewear clothing

Challenges

The high cost of raw materials and designing activewear products, however, continues to stifle the capacity to purchase for price-sensitive consumers. Moreover, the presence of counterfeits is a cause for quality and safety issues, a constant battle for brands and consumers alike. For instance, In January 2018, Nike identified counterfeit activewear products worth more than $ 50,000 at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. These issues are leading to declining sales of the key activewear market players, negatively affecting market share. On the contrary, specialty activewear brands, that invest heavily in vertical retail experiences and D2C, like Lululemon, are expected to show gains in the coming years.

Who is buying?

If we look at demographics, the activewear audience is about 60% women and 40% men on average. Also, according to Edited, the new SKU arrivals in the Yoga wear niche for women grew 144% while for men, the new SKU arrivals grew by 26%, signaling an explosion of options in the category, focused on women.

Activewear is largely favored by the wealthy, particularly the 25-44 age group who earn upwards of $100,000, as the most popular item associated with the category – yoga pants – can cost anywhere between $75 and $100. The younger adults aged 18-24 fall below this spending cap. In the fashion category, Gen-X (35-44) typically spends 50% more than the Millennials (25-34).

Where are they buying?

Activewear junkies are highly digital; they use their mobile devices to not just buy products but also conduct product research and spot trends and deals online. Yet, they are 44% more likely to shop in-store, spending several hours browsing and trying on clothes.

 

Activewear Market Analysis 

NPD claims that there are about 2,000 activewear brands. However, our analysis tells that the numbers could be upwards of 3,000

pipe candy's retail intelligence on active wear

list of active wear retailers from the tool PipeCandy

Of these 3,000+ brands, we analyzed a sample of 500 brands to see how they are distributed by Web Sales, Shopping Cart and Shipping Volume.

At Least 95% of the brands make <1M in web sales!

 

Shopping cart distribution of active wear brands.

A little more than 50% of the brands operate their stores on Shopify. Larger, enterprise-level brands prefer custom/homegrown carts.

Shipping volume of brands selling activewear.

62% of the brands ship fewer than 100 orders a year, reflecting that the majority of the brands are long-tail, up and coming brands that are yet to make their mark in the activewear scene. 

Apart from the sample of 500 brands, we also picked out the key players that are being spoken about online and classified them into Legacy, Top, and Niche brands based on their revenue and scale of international presence.

Then, we analyzed the performance of these three activewear brand tiers across multiple parameters such as web traffic, time spent on websites, social engagement rates among other things. We found that…

1. The audience looking up for activewear is primarily women. Men make up about 40% of the audience (not buyers!) across all three tiers. 

Gender break down of activewear users.

2. On average, most customers spend a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 5 minutes on these brand websites. This shows that most customers know exactly what they are looking for and that most activewear brands are specialized enough to give consumers a clear choice. Generally speaking, Legacy brands, which offer categories in addition to athleisure wear, have a longer dwell time, by 20-45 seconds.

3. Shopify is the preferred shopping cart among Niche brands, while Legacy brands use Custom carts. Top brands see a spread comprising Demandware, Oracle Commerce, and Custom carts, in that order.

 

Average share of mobile web traffic.

4. Legacy brands drive the largest share of mobile web traffic (on average, 66% of their visits are via mobile), followed by Niche (48%) and Top brands (33%).

5. Legacy brands rely on direct traffic rather than social media marketing to endorse their apparel. However, Top and Niche activewear brands have a wider social media presence. Facebook/Instagram are the go-to social networks, and Pinterest, especially with smaller brands, is a close contender.

Instagram engagement rate for brands selling active wear

6. Top brands drive more engagement on Instagram than the Legacy and Niche segments. Puma emerges the category leader among Top brands, driving 86% more engagement than the category average! Adidas in Legacy category and Outdoor Voices in the Niche category emerge as category leaders, driving 50% more engagement than the category averages.

 

Conclusion

The global activewear market is predicted to be worth $580B by 2025, at the current CAGR of 6.8%. The Women’s activewear market is particularly hot, growing as fast as the activewear category itself. APAC and in particular China and India, two countries with the largest millennial demographic, are emerging as activewear hotspots. We expect that the growth of the market in general and the call for sustainable alternatives like cotton could see mass mobilizations with sustainability at the fore, could give rise to new influencers, fashion gurus, more indie D2C brands, collaborations, and retail experiences in the athleisure scene.

Sujay Seetharaman

Market Analyst @ PipeCandy

Currently donning the Researcher's hat. Talks to himself.