In the 1980s it was leotards and legwarmers. In the 1990s, it was running gear. But for the past 10 or so years, it’s been yoga pants. Ah…yoga pants. Those ubiquitous black stretchy pants paired with a moisture-wicking tank or hoodie.
In fact, the explosion of yoga and yoga pants launched a slew of women’s activewear brands and retailers in the US: Lululemon, Athleta, Sweaty Betty, VSX by Victoria’s Secret…the list goes on and on. The yoga boom also energized the big names in the activewear space – major brands like Under Armour and Nike launched highly successful yoga lines, as did Gap with its GapFit brand. Even kid’s retailers like The Children’s Place began offering yoga pants. If you are a retailer in the yoga business, it has been a great run for a long time.
But now things are changing – not that activewear is going away. Actually, the women’s activewear market grew 9% in 2013 and is expected to keep growing at a similar rate in the years ahead. But the key is that it’s not only about yoga anymore. It’s about activewear appropriate for a variety of activities. Newer fitness trends including spinning, CrossFit, bodyweight training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and more are expanding the market for women’s activewear. And accordingly, brands and retailers are taking notice. Reebok is now the official activewear sponsor for CrossFit, Soul Cycle has launched its own line of spinning-related apparel, and Nike has made running a primary focus at its retail stores. Both Under Armour and Nike have also made the women’s activewear business a key growth focus for the years ahead. Even Target recently re-launched C9 by Champion to be a full-fledged activewear brand.
What does that mean for retailers in the activewear space for 2014? It’s a great niche to be in – as long as they remember that it’s not just about the black yoga pants.