Alexis DeSalva Kahler
Alexis is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel. Alexis focuses on US Retail and eCommerce reports.

In an already crowded market, two more retailers are aiming to become a part of the activewear scene. Amazon is looking to be the next retailer to enter the market, based on job postings listed on the retailer’s website as of early January 2017, indicating the e-commerce giant is developing its own line of private label activewear. This could be bad news for some of the current players in the market, especially considering Amazon’s customer base and expedited shipping features. Amazon has been increasingly expanding its offering of apparel categories and is projected to sell more clothes than Macy’s by next year. Activewear would be its next phase of expansion in the retailer’s apparel offerings, and most likely competitively priced as a private label brand.

J.Crew, a retailer that traditionally specializes in men’s and women’s wear, has also jumped on the activewear train in an effort to help boost struggling sales. In a partnership with New Balance, the retailer first introduced a line of athletic wear for women in October 2016 and has since expanded into men’s athletic apparel. The collection features essentials in tech fabrics, like moisture-wicking leggings and waterproof jackets, available in J.Crew signature colors and patterns, further bridging the gap between activewear and streetwear.

What we think

The apparel market has been largely fueled by athleisure, which is proving to be less of a trend and more of a growing way of dressing. The activewear category is already heavily saturated, with many non-specialty retailers getting into the business due to consumer popularity. Now that there could potentially be two more players – particularly ones with loyal customer bases – it’s concerning for some of the existing retailers in the market.

Price is a top influencer in purchasing activewear among US consumers

Amazon is at an advantage since it already has such a large and loyal customer group, who would most likely be receptive to buying activewear from the retailer due to its quick, free shipping. Private label also tends to be more cost efficient for retailers, usually resulting in lower ticket prices, which would appeal to even more consumers as price is a top influencer in purchasing activewear, according to Mintel’s Activewear US 2016 report.

J.Crew also poses a threat to existing activewear retailers since it not only has a core customer group, but it also sells clothes and accessories that suit customers’ needs outside of activewear. Purchasing athletic apparel from J.Crew might be a much easier option for customers who need to fulfill other shopping missions, especially since the price points are similar to those of the other products the retailer sells. Building a larger basket is made all the more easier for J.Crew shoppers, which puts the retailer at a direct advantage versus its athletic apparel competition.

There’s no doubt about it – activewear is selling and everyone wants a piece of the sales. Retailers solely focused on selling activewear need to understand the threat these two incoming retailers with strong customer bases could present as they seek to gain customers who are shopping their stores and/or sites for other needs. In order to succeed in the competitive market, activewear retailers need to ensure they’re offering products that are relevant to consumers, with features and fabrics that are innovative and worth the cost. Finding ways to increase basket size will also help to stay relevant against the increasing competition in this market.

Alexis is a Retail and Apparel Analyst at Mintel. Alexis has a background in corporate retail merchandising, with specific knowledge of the grocery and apparel categories. She has previously held merchant and analyst roles and has experience in both building strategic and innovative assortments and providing the insight to assist in merchandising decisions. She brings product knowledge, analytical perspective and genuine passion for retail to her current role on the Reports team.