Increased awareness of the importance of physical health for our overall wellbeing means the sports fashion sector is evolving dramatically. It has already returned to pre-pandemic growth with an anticipated Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in excess of 6% to 2030.
Sector leaders weathered the storms of 2020 and 2021 by focussing on changing customer habits, the transformation of ecommerce, and wider disruption across the industry.
Overview – changes in the sports fashion market
Sports and general good health have become priorities for new groups of customers who are now looking for styles and products that suit their lifestyle.
With many people continuing to work from home, ‘athleisure’ has taken on a new vibrancy as attitudes towards work and leisure wear change.
Many consumers have continued the online shopping habits they acquired during the pandemic and are also more engaged with digitally delivered individual or community-based exercise programs.
Sustainability is becoming a priority for customers and all companies now need to explore options for a circular economy.
The impact of the pandemic
At the beginning of 2020 leading sportswear companies were enjoying growth in earnings and annual sales and some continued to achieve above-average profits, like JD Sports in 2021.
Perhaps inspired by the Beijing Olympics sports apparel sales in China have increased by almost 40%, bringing the market as a whole back to pre-pandemic levels.
Although new coronavirus variants and the possibility of continuing restrictions are still causing uncertainty, the medium-term outlook for the sector is strong.
Sports fashion ecommerce trends
Research suggests there are several key trends linked to the continuing digital transformation of the sports fashion sector.
Customer expectations – customers in younger age groups and in China, India, and the United States are the most optimistic and sportwear is one of the non-essential items they plan to continue buying.
Social commerce – social media remains a popular channel for influencers and digital communities, helping to link customers and sellers in a digital ecosystem. Some leading companies have successfully streamlined the process of digital engagement and sales and have achieved improved profitability as a result. They are effectively linking their ecommerce sites, apps and retail stores and are using the data they collect to improve operational performance in product development and demand planning, for example.
Livestreaming – as a promotional tool and a shopping channel livestreaming is now well established in Asia and is growing in popularity all around the world.
Sustainability – awareness of sustainability issues in fashion has increased significantly, influencing everything from material choices, packaging and returns policies to delivery and collection options.
Companies are expected to play their part and will need to inform their customers about their environmental credentials and practices as a point of differentiation. Disposable seasonal collections could become a of the past, to be replaced by classic styling and durability.
Inclusivity – a much broader range of personal choice and requirements are now being recognized by sports fashion brands. Previously, products and services did not meet customers’ needs for accessibility and inclusivity. Creating products that allow as many people as possible to participate in sport is now a mainstream expectation.
Channel choices – market leaders like Nike have successfully implemented a direct to consumer (D2C) sales model, taking control of their online presence and building stronger direct relationships with their customers and retail partners.
At the same time, retailers will be working hard to keep leading brands in-store to attract more customers and build sales. We can expect to see brick and mortar stores being redefined as experience- and service-focussed offerings within a wider omnichannel strategy supporting customer acquisition and retention.
Fulfillment – many organizations have faced increases in raw-material and transport costs leading to production bottlenecks and logistics challenges. However, customers continue to expect fast deliveries and convenient options. Supply chain management and logistics are now high on the strategic priority list. New data collection from online transactions is now helping companies to review and revise their approach to prepare for the practical issues ahead.
Importantly, as more people shop online directly with manufacturers shipment of individual parcels could become more prevalent than bulk shipments. Adidas, for example, has integrated its online store with production processes.
Work with an experienced partner
At Williams Commerce we understand the challenges faced by sports fashion companies. Over the last decade we have worked with a number of high profile fashion brands. We understand what’s needed to implement your digital transformation strategy and to sustain growth over time.
We can help you to find new markets, new technologies and deeper insights into shifting fashion ecommerce trends to discover new opportunities to grow.