January 6, 2022 by Sujay Seetharaman

 Dwayne Johnson, JLo, Rihanna, Queen B have their own fitness lines, and the activewear market is here to stay.

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. As a result, many fashion brands have started developing leggings and yoga pants to cash in on the athleisure fever that has gripped consumers.

This blog post looks at the activewear industry landscape, growth factors, key players, and how they differ in performance metrics such as traffic, channel presence, and social engagement.

Activewear Market Size snapshots for 2022

Although used interchangeably, Activewear and Athleisure have subtle differences between them. Activewear is anything you’d wear when you’d want to break a sweat. Athleisure sits at the intersection of exercise and leisure.

With a rising preference for athleisure clothing, the global activewear market is worth $380 billion in 2022, growing at a 3.68% CAGR.

North America makes up an estimated 40% of all activewear sales worldwide, followed by Europe (30%) and APAC (26%). APAC is the fastest-growing demographic, registering a CAGR of 8% in growth. China, Japan, and South Korea lead in value, while India is the fastest-growing market at 13.9% CAGR.

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 predominantly women. As of 2018, Women’s activewear GMV was around five times the GMV of Women’s traditional sports apparel.

The United States comprises most activewear clothing brands, especially small-medium-sized brands. The exceptions are Nike, ASICS, Alo Yoga, and Puma. However, 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.

Outlook of Activewear Market

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 have made products like spandex more flexible, durable, and washable than natural materials. In addition, celebrity collaborations with DTC and designer activewear brands and the gradual blurring of lines between work attire and workout attire continue to propel this industry forward. Modest and adaptive apparel options, Maternity activewear, and sustainable activewear are growing areas within the activewear market. Consumers experiencing a new wave of social activism will not respond well to exclusion.

Challenges of Activewear Market

However, the high cost of raw materials and designing activewear products stifles the capacity to purchase for price-sensitive consumers. Moreover, counterfeits are 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 lead to declining sales of the critical 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.

Why/who are buying activewear?

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

The wealthy largely favors activewear, 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. Gen-X (35-44) typically spends 50% more than the Millennials (25-34).

Where are people buying activewear?

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 and Demographic Analysis | 2022  

Our analysis tells that there are more than 1,300 activewear brands.

pipe candy's retail intelligence on active wear

list of active wear retailers from the tool PipeCandy

Of these 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!

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

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 clothing brands 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. 

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.

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.

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

Trends of activewear market – 2022 and beyond

The global activewear market will be worth $439 billion by 2026, at the current CAGR of 3.68%. 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 most significant 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.

Want access to 50+ data points about 300,000 eCommerce companies?

Sujay Seetharaman

Market Analyst @ PipeCandy

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