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  -  Culture   -  Has Athleisure Been Canceled?

Athleisure. The genius coupling of performance athletic wear and leisure wear that has all but taken over the United States over the last 10 years.  On a recent trip back to New York City, the amount of athleisure roaming the streets is noticeably less than it was 4 years ago. So, is the athleisure bubble now about to burst? We’re taking a look at the state of the category, where it’s been, where it’s going, and where opportunities lay.  

Athleisure is a $167 billion category of the fashion industry. It has largely been the darling of the industry in recent years due to its strong growth, even while many other categories suffered. The category has arguably been around for about 20 years, some say even over 100 years. 

Growth in this segment of the market has begun to slow down in the US, indicating a change in the athleisure market. Now, that does not mean that the category is dead. Brands would, though, be wise to pay attention to the subtleties of this change so that they can react and position themselves in a way that will allow them to adapt to the changing environment. 

The US is by far the largest market for athleisure, which to most would not come as a surprise. The general casualization of American style and office culture has been obvious most anywhere you look. Once leggings became acceptable attire for school, work, cocktails, and everything in between, most women have not looked back. However, the double digit sales increases that this market has come to expect over the last 5 years, seems to be over. It is now more than ever, in the hands of brands to really get in front of their customer in meaningful ways and to ensure that they are providing their consumer with what matters to them. The big question is what doesmatter to them now? 

According to Vogue Business, Athleisure brands will need to attract new customers in order to continue higher growth. Brands like Lululemon and Athleta are addressing this change by offering styles that can easily fit into most work environments, even the ones where leggings would still be frowned upon. Newer companies, like Dai and  Ministry of Supply are making performance workwear, disrupting traditional office silhouettes with wicking and performance fabrics. ADAY is another brand that we love. Their offerings according to occasion Work, Travel and Exercise provide enough flexibility to live life to the fullest, and most comfortable. 

Blending traditional career wear with performance fabrics allows the customer to benefit from the level of comfort they really desire, while still looking polished and professional. It also allows the brand to tell a more complete story. They can really secure themselves in the customers closet for all occasions, rather than only for gym moments or weekend errands. 

Fabletics is working to increase sales in another way; by meeting the customer where they already are. They just came off of their first year of pop-ups held at the country’s most well attended cheerleading competitions. They completed a total of 16 days of pop-ups over the course of 8 competitions throughout cheerleading season, which is from September to May. This marks the first of a two-year deal that the fitness giant has inked with Varsity Spirit, who, since 1980, has been the host company of competitions for cheerleaders from middle school to college.  

About 200,000 people attended these cheer events. Over the course of the season, Fabletics brought in more than $500,000 in revenue and over 5,000 new members. That is over $31,000 per day. Plus, those new members that are acquired from the pop-up experience are proving to have a comparable lifetime value as those who sign up at a Fabletics retail store. Members that are acquired through the retail store channel have a 250 percent higher lifetime value than those members that sign up online. According to a recent Glossy article, VP of retail at Fabletics parent company, Ron Harries said, “the Dallas event [the NCA All-Star Nationals], which is Black Friday on steroids; it was our largest revenue event of the season.”

The majority of the attendees of the cheer events are millennial moms, creating a captive audience for Fabletics to jump right into. Given that just one of the pop-up cheer events attracted 70,000 people, this forward thinking strategy has outperformed any other pop-ups held for Fabletics to date. Varsity Spirit’s director of corporate sales and partnerships, Taylor Raston, has said “Nine in 10 cheerleaders who interact with a brand at one of our events say they are very likely to buy from the brand.”

Traditional pop-up shops provide a brand with traffic and new customers. However, it’s very difficult to know much about the people shopping those events. What are they looking for, are they specifically interested in your product or did they just stumble in? Fabletics is now eyeing short-term, pop-up opportunities with other fitness events and partnerships since these events are teeming with customers that they knoware interested in fitness, making it a much easier sell. They are looking into longer term experiential initiatives like brand shopping parties and more. 

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t limit your brand to the products you currently offer. Listen to your customer and pay attention to the market in order to add pieces or lines that the consumer actually needs. 
  • Reimagine wardrobe staples using new, more modern materials. 
  • Go where the customer is. 
  • Build relationships with customers that you can grow. 
  • Think outside of the box when it comes to doing pop-up events, or other in-person selling. 

We’ve spoke about the power of experiential selling in a recent post you can read here. Say hello in the comments or let us know how you feel about this market shift. 

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