Global sales of outdoor performance apparel reached over US$25bn in 2013

Global sales of outdoor performance apparel reached over US$25bn in 2013

As new outdoor performance apparel brands enter the market in record numbers, retailers are introducing new innovations and technologies to stand out from the crowd and win over consumers. With that, the sector is set to continue on its growth trajectory, according to a new report from just-style.

According to the report entitled 'Outdoor performance apparel: peaks, valleys, and green fields', global sales reached over US$25bn in 2013, driven by double-digit growth in emerging markets.

But defining outdoor performance apparel is something else entirely. The overlap between outdoor, active wear, and lifestyle dressing is becoming increasingly muddled, as outdoor performance apparel is increasingly being worn for everyday tasks like walking the dog. The report, however, points to these categories merging as a possibility in the future.

Yet the sector's small speciality but core retailers are being threatened by big box chains, the digital revolution, and apparel brands that are now marketing directly to the consumer. Consolidation in the segment is ongoing and may be key to survival of the independents, the report notes.

Innovation driving growth
New technologies and innovations are certainly driving growth. The North Face is confidently leading the way, having not only pledged to use 100% recycled content in its polyester, but also having developed a hoodie designed, sourced and manufactured locally as part of its Backyard Project.

But with performance technologies such as moisture management, anti-odour and UV protection appearing everywhere, the need for retailers to introduce new innovations is constant.

In 2013, VF Corp established three innovation centres, including one for technical apparel, while Columbia Sportswear has introduced various technologies over the last few years, including Turbodown, Omni-heat and Omni-freeze.

There is a flip side to this innovation, however, and the report argues that certain technologies developed to ensure outdoor textiles perform are now being found to contain harmful substances such as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOAs), which pose risks to human health and the environment.

With the price of high-quality goose down on the rise, outdoor brands are committing to using responsibly-sourced and traceable down in their products, opening the door for a new generation of alternative insulation materials, including synthetics, hybrids, and wool insulation.

Cooling technologies that employ evaporative cooling to lower the skin temperature by a few degrees have also generated keen interest within the industry.

And we cannot forget wearable technology. Ralph Lauren's recently-launched its Polo-Tech compression shirt has sensors knitted into the fabric that can monitor biological and physiological information. The system is said to be capable of capturing movement, direction, heartbeat, respiration, stress level, and energy output.

Relevance and consumer are key
But while new innovations are critical to the success of the outdoor performance apparel industry, one of the biggest challenges it faces is finding the next generation of consumers.

To reach millennial shoppers, an e-commerce platform is not enough, the report notes, adding that the likes of Nike, The North Face and Adidas get high marks for their integration of e-commerce, digital marketing, social networking, and mobile apps.

Analysts and brands agree that the outdoor apparel business will continue on a growth trajectory, but much of this will depend on how well its players adapt to changing times.

Click on the following link to view the full report: Outdoor performance apparel: peaks, valleys, and green fields