The market for performance apparel is buoyant and will continue to be so, helped by new fabric technologies. But which will be the winning apparel categories, and which will be the leading fabric/fibre/treatment approaches between now and 2012? Here we take a peak at the key findings of a new report.
A new report published this week by just-style concludes that performance apparel is a good sector to be in, for garment makers, fabric providers and fibre and treatment companies.

This is because businesses can expect to reap the benefits of a 22% growth in the performance apparel market in the six years to 2012, the report says, helped by the sector's price elasticity - its ability to command higher prices for more complex products - rather than volume growth.

The report, 'Global market review of performance apparel - forecasts to 2012,' also points out that because fabric technology makes "better" performance garments, products are likely to make their first appearance in the sportswear and protectivewear arena. So the general sportswear and general workwear sub-sectors also look set for growth between now and 2012.

Performance apparel defined
The definition of performance apparel is complex, and according to just-style's analysis consists of two segments: sportswear and protective clothing.

Performance apparel is consequently sold both to the individual consumer as sportswear at retail prices, and as business-to-business protective clothing at wholesale prices.

But the garments themselves contain the same characteristics and attributes, which are to meet the needs of the wearer's circumstances, and to defeat the risks of the outside environment.

These properties come from the garment construction, the fabric and trim specification, and/or fibres and chemical treatments. Performance is truly as much about the materials in the garment as the garment itself.

The report estimates that the total retail market value of performance apparel used as sportswear for 2006 is US$5.89bn at retail prices. Performance apparel accounts for 10.7% of the sportswear market.

The world market 2006 for performance apparel worn as protectivewear stands at US$1.55bn at wholesale prices. Performance protectivewear growth has been quite impressive - over five times as much as workwear as a whole.

just-style believes, however, that most of this growth has come in the developed world, as a result particularly of health and safety legislation, and because protective fabric companies have sold the benefits of their products well.

The performance apparel market 2012

In the six-year period to 2012, just-style forecasts performance apparel will outperform all sportswear by a factor of two, raising the US$ money value of performance sportswear from US$5.89bn to US$7.20bn.

Its share of total active sportswear will rise quite impressively from 10.71% to 11.86%. And in the macro-economics of world apparel and textile markets, this represents considerable opportunities for both garment and fabric companies.

Performance protectivewear is also forecast to outperform all workwear by a factor of two. The just-style forecast is for 15% growth across the six-year period to 2012, whilst workwear in total rises by 7%. This will raise the US$ money value of performance protectivewear from US$1.55bn to US$1.79bn.

Performance protectivewear will continue to replace "basic" workwear as the apparel of choice at a modest but consistent pace. Its share of total workwear will rise from 36% in 2006 to 39% by 2012.

From the point of view of the supplier selling in at wholesale values, performance sports apparel in 2012 will be US$2.5bn. To this can be added the forecast for performance protectivewear for 2012 of US$1.79bn. The total wholesale market for performance apparel is forecast to be worth US$4.29bn in 2012.

Winning categories
Performancewear has to "perform." But which will be the winning categories between now and 2012?

Looking at it by gender, region and product category for sportswear, just-style believes genuine performance sportswear will continue to grow faster for men than for women, and that most growth will come from North America, East Asia and Europe. Underwear, fleece products and weather resistant outerwear will lead the field.

For protectivewear, performance protectivewear will grow faster for women and, by region, Europe, North America and East Asia and will see the biggest growth. Female image outerwear will be the winner here.

In terms of fabrics and fabric treatments, options include coating, lamination, membranes, and microporous fabrics. While bio-technology is picked out as the face of the future, the report also notes that what is important in today's market is which of these treatment approaches is likely to succeed at the expense of others between now and 2012.

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