How the January health kick really impacts retail sales

Activewear sales and the January health kick.


It’s January, and as everyone grudgingly tugs on their gym gear and grabs their protein shake, let’s check in with the activewear market. WGSN’s Nivindya SharmaSenior Editor of WGSN INstock (retail data) reveals all.

January health kick -New look active

January health kick -New look active campaign


The industry grew, but so did discounting

WGSN Instock data shows that fitness and activewear was the fastest growing category for A/W 2016 in the UK, with the volume of new-in products growing by 56% YOY. On the flip side, it was also the category with the highest increase in the percentage of markdown products – up 5pp to 51% in 2016, suggesting a supply-demand imbalance. Retailers are selling but are consumers really buying?

The volume of fitness products that was discounted at any point during A/W 16 increased by 109% YoY, indicating a need for smaller, more focused ranges. This also underlines the fact that in an increasingly competitive environment, retailers can’t rely upon activewear to be a footfall driver or money spinner purely by virtue of its presence in their assortments.



Are we reaching peak fitness?

With multiple retailers having introduced activewear ranges over the last couple of years (H&M, New Look and Primark introducing own brand ranges, while Selfridges launched the Body Studio, to name a few) the market has becoming increasingly saturated.

However, fitness has become a mainstream lifestyle choice, and athleisure – a ‘supertrend’ – is now a modern woman’s wardrobe staple. So demand for activewear looks set to continue apace, but is starting to level out with fewer consumers left to try out the trend, limiting new shopper adoption. Consequently, focus must now shift from customer acquisition to customer retention.

Strategise for success

As athleisure evolves, a one-size-fits all strategy will no longer be sufficient, and retailers must invest in identifying and targeting their ‘athleisure style tribe’ to avoid losing out.

Activewear ranges must become more edited, with clear emphasis on quality and performance credentials, and a distinctive design point of view. Fit – the key driver of loyalty in an activewear shopper – must also be a priority to guarantee repeat custom.

Communicating the adaptive appeal of activewear ranges via standout visual merchandising will help consumers visualise multiple uses for ranges outside of the gym – stoking desire and encouraging more frequent purchases in a predominantly functional category.

In an increasingly complex activewear market, product differentiation and a sophisticated understanding of the target consumer will separate the winners from the losers over the next few years.




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