Diana Kelter
Diana is a Senior Trend Analyst at Mintel. She investigates how cultural, lifestyle and technology shifts take shape across sectors and leverages Mintel data across trend observations.

Back in August, Senior Trends Analyst Diana Kelter explored how the fitness space was serving as a remedy for pandemic burnout. Now we’re looking ahead and examining how the fitness brands that have built up loyal followings during the pandemic, notably Peloton and Lululemon, are preparing for what’s next.

Time has been a key opportunity the pandemic created for the fitness industry. Mintel data on exercise trends collected before the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that two in five US consumers who expressed they were exercising less often sourced a lack of time as being a key reason and that increased to more than half when focusing on consumers employed full-time. With commutes removed for a significant amount of employees, and after-hours social events canceled, consumers were left with more time to accommodate workouts of all types. Mintel’s Global COVID-19 tracker data reflects a shift in exercise prioritization occurred and more than a third of US consumers said exercising became a higher personal priority due to COVID-19. Fitness brands notably took this opportunity to build community engagement around fitness during the most uncertain moments of the pandemic. Now the key opportunities brands have as consumers prepare for what’s next is the impact they’ve had in representing fitness as an identity and not just a daily or weekly activity. Peloton and Lululemon have seen steady and sustained growth during the pandemic, but it’s the foundational aspects the brands are creating that’s setting the stage for maintaining that consumer interest in the months and years to come.

The People of Peloton

One of the key elements of Peloton’s success is that it took the experience of an in-person fitness class and brought it directly into the home, but in a significantly broader way than a neighborhood fitness studio could accomplish. Consumers can create their own micro-communities within the Peloton network (Mintel employees even created their own #Mintel network for Peloton members), but they can also find encouragement from members across the globe. The element of identity has always been an important component for fitness enthusiasts, but Peloton has become an identity in itself. The humanizing element of Peloton is critical to its success and Peloton instructors have become online influencers in their own right, by spreading messages of motivation, strength, and a significant dose of fun. Robin Arzón, Peloton’s VP of Fitness Programming and an Instructor, has 600K+ followers on Instagram as of November 2020 and several other Peloton instructors have built up their own dedicated followings.

Peloton is following a model that has been successful for various technology brands, such as Apple. In the hardware space, Apple has created community loyalty through its products and the integration of devices working together to create an ecosystem. For Peloton, while the hardware is a fundamental foundation, it’s the people (both members and instructors) building a unique ecosystem of loyalty.

Lululemon Looks Beyond Apparel

Lululemon first and foremost is known as an apparel brand, but the company continues to double down on investing in an experience that goes beyond a singular product. In June 2020, Lululemon acquired fitness start-up Mirror signaling its investment in at-home fitness. However, it’s Lululemon’s focus on surroundings that go beyond the home that is setting a well-rounded foundation for the future. Lululemon recently announced a $75 million investment in community wellbeing that will be put into action between now and 2025. The brand is planning to invest that money in local and global communities and while no official partnerships have been announced it’s clear the brand is not looking to make these investments without support and partnerships along the way.

This community investment from Lululemon demonstrates a merger of two Mintel Trend Drivers, ‘Surroundings’ and ‘Rights.’ The pandemic has put local communities at the forefront of consumers’ lifestyles, but local communities have to consistently evolve to provide equitable access and protection of natural resources. Lululemon is far from the only brand looking to make community spaces and the broader outdoors more accessible. North Face also recently announced a $7 million initiative to make the outdoors more inclusive. The concept of fitness is evolving to become less about a singular activity or action and more broadly it’s representing a new narrative of becoming a playground that offers structured opportunities, but also a canvas to simply play.

What This Means

The trends happening in fitness in 2020 didn’t appear out of thin air. Prior to the pandemic, fitness classes were growing in popularity as a social experience and the motivation factor for “why” consumers were embracing fitness was evolving. The onset of the pandemic didn’t universally create opportunities for every type of fitness brand and brands that revolved around an in-person experience were faced with a harder hill to climb. However, it’s the brands that evolve with the consumers own personal “why” when it comes to fitness that will continue to play a role in this next evolution of the industry.