As COVID-19 forced gyms and workout studios to close doors, the activewear industry suffered huge losses. However, apparel makers still have a chance to improve sales if they start offering clothes in natural fibers with performance technologies.
A recent NPD Group survey notes the adult activewear industry in the US generated sales worth $50.3 billion in 2019. Of this, men’s activewear accounted for 51 per cent market share versus women’s 49 per cent. To be successful in the women’s activewear market, brands and retailers need to blow up the traditional activewear retail model and make a sincere connection with the needs of a modern woman, feels Matt Powell, Senior Vice President and Sports Industry Advisor, NPD Group.
Performance feature drive sales
Powell says, brands and manufacturers must realize that 65 per cent consumers emphasize on performance features while choosing clothes. As per the 2020 Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey, some of the top features that consumers seek out in activewear are: shrink resistance, odor resistance and durability enhancement. This is followed by sweat-hiding features, moisture management, stain resistance, and water repellency.
The survey shows that not only do consumers seek out these features but are also willing to pay more for them. They are also willing to pay a premium for workout clothes that are odor resistant, fade resistant, have sweat-hiding technology and moisture management.
Cotton for comfort and durability
The survey suggests, consumers are also looking for more eco-friendly clothes. Nearly one-third respondents acknowledged being concerned about microfibers from synthetic clothes polluting the earth’s oceans and waters. Two-thirds disapproved the use of synthetic fibers by brands and retailers in their clothes. Eighty per cent also affirmed cotton being their favorite fabric and 51 per cent expressed their willingness to pay more for cotton-rich apparels.
By introducing new technologies for cotton fabrics, brands can give consumers the performance in activewear they’re seeking along with the comfort they prefer. For instance, Cotton Incorporated’s Tough Cotton™ Technology brings increased durability and superior abrasion- and wrinkle-resistance to a garment throughout its life. Odor and antimicrobial technologies can be found in PurThread, XT2®, Polygiene®, and Agion Active™ performance solutions. TransDRY® Technology from Cotton Incorporated is a patented, high-performing, moisture-management technology.
Protecting the wearer
Similarly, cotton technologies used in woven and knit fabrics can be engineered to protect the wearer. For instance, Purepress™ technology can keep clothes wrinkle free. Similarly, EarthColors® technology from Cotton Incorporated and Archroma can bring a responsible solution to dyeing textiles as it uses nearly 100 percent of the cotton plant to create a biosynthetic dye without harmful chemical waste during processing.
Another technology that can wick sweat and keep the wearer dry are the Dry Inside technology launched by Cotton Incorporated in collaboration with Nanotex®. This moves moisture away from the body and spreads it across the fabric surface. It outperforms competition from synthetics like 100 percent polyester or untreated cotton. The Natural Strech Technology from Cotton Incorporated gives cotton apparel pieces a comfortable stretch without the use spandex.
According to Powell, the mature US activewear market needs a fresh approach to grow to full potential. Particularly, the women’s market offers brands and retailers a golden opportunity to explore new avenues, fuelling the growth of the entire market.