Move over athletes, it’s the fashion-set who are causing a surge in sportswear sales. New research from Mintel estimates that sales of sports goods will reach a personal best of £7 billion in 2016, up 6% compared to 2015.

The race in sales comes as more Brits are lacing up their trainers and donning their tracksuits all in the name of fashion. Half (50%) of those who have bought sports clothing, footwear, equipment or accessories in the past 12 months* did so for non-sports use. And while 34% of Brits have bought fashionable sportswear that can be worn when not exercising, 11% have purchased celebrity sportswear collections. Furthermore, one third (32%) of purchasers say they prefer to buy from sports retailers who follow the latest fashion trends.

What’s more, it seems high levels of consumer interest in health and wellness trends is also driving growth in the athleisure market. Currently, over half (53%) of UK consumers take part in sport at least once a week, with almost one in six (16%) exercising five times a week or more. Younger consumers, in particular, are taking the ‘no pain, no gain’ mantra to heart, with over one quarter (28%) of those aged 16-24 exercising five times a week or more. As a result, younger consumers are the most likely group to have bought sports products over the past year, with three in four (75%) Brits aged 16-24 purchasing new items.

50% of Brits who bought sports clothing, footwear, equipment or accessories in the past 12 months* did so for non-sports use

Samantha Dover, Retail Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The sports goods market continues to grow at an exceptional rate. Driven by a rising interest in health and wellness amongst young consumers, coupled with an increasing acceptance of casual dressing, the athleisure trend is dominating the sector. The success of the market has seen increasing levels of competition from non-specialists, and more than ever, retailers need to establish their position in a crowded sector.”

In particular, with the Olympics and Paralympics taking place this summer, Mintel predicts that the Games will heighten consumer interest in sports fashion and fitness. Previous Mintel research reveals that growth in the sports product market peaks in the years that key sporting events fall. For instance, in 2012 during the London Games sports goods sales rose by 7%.

“A number of high-profile designers have kitted out the Olympic teams again this year and, with all eyes on the athletes, merchandise and associated sports products are particularly well-placed to succeed. Beyond official merchandise, general activewear sales are likely to lift as consumers get caught-up in the Olympic hype.” Samantha adds.

Overall, 54% of Brits have bought sports clothing, footwear, equipment or accessories in the past 12 months*, rising to 59% of men. While they’re most likely to purchase sports goods, Mintel research indicates that men are also more likely to have bought sporting apparel for non-sports use: on average 50% of purchasers bought sport clothing for non-sports use, rising to 55% of men.

Additionally, it seems it’s those channelling the likes of Mo Farah and Christine Ohuruogu are the most fashion-savvy. Of those who have bought sports goods in the past year, 45% did so for running or jogging. In comparison, over one quarter (28%) bought new sports gear for going to the gym and 23% did so for cycling. However, it seems that some sports are less fashion-forward than others, as just 7% bought new items for yoga or pilates and the same proportion (7%) did so for rugby.

When deciding which items to invest in, it seems it’s a case of the best foot forward as trainer sales are gaining speed. Of specialist sporting goods sales, Mintel forecasts that footwear sales will make up 34% in 2016, up from 29% in 2014. However, clothing will still dominate at 54%; however, this is down from 59% in 2014.

“Whilst clothing continues to be the dominant category, footwear is an increasingly crucial part of any sports retailer’s assortment. The substantial growth we’re seeing in the footwear segment is likely driven by the increased acceptance of sports clothing in society. In particular, athletic footwear has become a big, mainstream fashion trend.” Samantha adds.

Finally, Mintel research reveals that there are a number of consumers who are looking to invest in products in order to avoid getting hot and sweaty when exercising. Over one third (37%) of Brits say they have bought or would be interested in buying beauty or grooming products that improve appearance during or after exercise, for instance, redness reducing creams. Consumers aged 25-34 are particularly interested in these products, with almost one quarter (23%) having already purchased them and a further 34% saying they haven’t yet bought these products, but would be interested in doing so in the future.

Beauty products that appeal to consumers with an active lifestyle are increasingly prominent in the sports sector. An emerging theme, we have seen a number of brands and retailers entering and trialing this market over the last year, and the interest from consumers indicates that there is definitely room for the trend to grow.” Samantha concludes.

*12 months to May 2016

Press review copies of Mintel’s Sports Goods Retailing UK 2016 report and interviews with Retail Analyst Samantha Dover are available on request from the press office.

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