• Anne Heaney, Director

The Athleisure Trend is not Taking a Rest

The red-hot athleisure trend has led many retailers and brands to unveil their own collections in recent years, and the term has been added to the dictionary. Now there's more evidence that it's not losing steam.

The “sport leisure” style has become the largest category in the U.S. sneaker space, beating “performance-oriented" footwear, according to a study released this week by market research firm NPD Group. In sharp contrast, while demand for sport leisure styles surged 17% last year to $9.6 billion in sales, sales of performance apparel tumbled 10% to $7.4 billion, NPD said, adding the performance category’s decline has “accelerated” the last two years.

Sales of “running-inspired” sneakers jumped 39% and “casual athletic” styles rose 24%, driving growth. On the other hand, sales of performance-geared shoes dropped 7% while training sneaker sales slumped 15%.

We often get asked whether the bubble around leisure will burst anytime soon, and the answer is no. Athleisure rules the runway, and the line between what is an athletic shoe and a casual shoe continues to blur. Brands and retailers continue to feed this trend.

The eagerness is coming from brands both inside and outside of the traditional athletic space. For example, upscale handbag and accessories label Coach will continue to amplify the sport category going forward, broadening their sneaker assortment.

While fashion-oriented brands are eager to expand in athleisure, one big beneficiary of that trend is none other than the world’s No. 2 sneaker giant Adidas.

The German company’s 2017 U.S. sneaker sales rose over 50% last year, the fastest of all players, NPD said. Adidas’s classic three-stripe Superstar and Tubular Shadow sneakers, both part of its athleisure play, are in the top 10 selling shoe list.

Adidas is keenly aware of the fashion importance. On its website, it describes the Tubular Shadow knit shoe as an update of its original Tubular running design for “contemporary street fashion.” For its Superstar line, Adidas bills it as “an authentic reissue of a classic sneaker” fit for anyone from “basketball MVP to streetwear queen.” The brand also has added fashion buzz through well known partnerships with celebrities and designers including Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Stella McCartney.

With on-the-go and time-pressed consumers seeking a more active lifestyle and wanting to look good all the time, this hot trend may not be cooling any time soon.

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