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More Signs The Athleisure Trend Isn’t Slowing Any Time Soon

More Signs The Athleisure Trend Isn’t Slowing Any Time Soon

Author: Andria Cheng


In another sign that the athleisure trend is getting even more mainstream, “sport leisure” footwear is about to surpass dressier fashion shoes as the largest U.S. footwear category come next year, according to a study. 

U.S. sales of sport leisure footwear, including athletic-inspired casual sneakers and skate shoes, rose 7% in the 12 months through August, according to market research firm NPD Group in a study released Thursday. In contrast, high heels and other fashion styles declined 5% while technical performance footwear sales fell 7%.

Athleisure styles will lead the U.S. shoe sales growth through 2021, according to NPD. 

“More brands will effectively respond to the shift away from performance and fashion footwear to focus on what has become the new norm: athleisure footwear,” Matt Powell, NPD’s senior sports industry advisor, said in the study. “Consumers are looking for shoes that are less technical and instead more versatile and every day.” 

The fashion category’s eventual rebound will also depend on answering the athleisure need. NPD projects the category will decline through next year but rise slightly in 2021, thanks to the growth of “comfort-oriented silhouettes” like slides, slippers, and loafers while heels will be “active-inspired” and trend “lower and thicker” with added comfort features. 

The shift is happening not just in shoes. A separate NPD study in August showed the number of women who shopped or bought a sports bra has grown to 45% in 2018 from 38% in 2015. The perception that a bra ‘is sexy’ is much less important,” the study said.

That change in consumer perception also helps explain the broader challenges facing the top U.S. lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, known for its sexy, glamorized look. 

The dictionary-defined athleisure trend has led not only to the introduction of workout-geared makeup like Clinique Fit, it’s also fueled the continued growth of companies like Nike and Lululemon that are doubling down on capitalizing on consumers’ increased health and wellness pursuits. Major retailers from Amazon to Target also have rolled out their own athleisure lines.

Nike CEO Mark Parker said this week the company is “broadening its definition of sport” to light activity and play from competition sports and fitness exercises. 

“The adoption of athleisure trend is here to stay and going to accelerate,” said Adam Goldenberg, CEO of LA-based TechStyle Fashion Group, in a recent interview. It’s about “being more comfortable. There’s a trend toward wellness. We couldn’t sell leggings in France three years ago. But now it starts to pick up.” 

TechStyle is parent of brands including Fabletics active-wear subscription line co-founded by actress Kate Hudson.

According to an RBC Capital Markets’ US back-to-school sporting goods survey released this month, three-fifths of respondents said they use sporting goods for athleisure reasons while just 30% said they use them for sports activities only. “Athleisure popularity remains robust,” RBC analyst Piral Dadhania said in a note. 

The global athleisure market will rise 9% this year, outpacing the total clothing and footwear market beyond 2023, according to data and analytics firm GlobalData in an August report. Its study showed more than two-thirds of consumers wore the sport clothing they bought both for exercise and for eating out or shopping. 

“Consumer desire for a multifunctional wardrobe (is) set to drive the athleisure market,” the report said. 


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