Blog: Leonie BarrieNike hopes to win women's sportswear race

Leonie Barrie | 24 October 2014

Nike unveiled its spring/summer 2015 women’s collection with 27 of the world’s top athletes

Nike unveiled its spring/summer 2015 women’s collection with 27 of the world’s top athletes

Competition for pole position in the women's sportswear market is about to heat up after Nike this week revealed it has set its sights on growing its women's business by 40% over the next two years.

Athletes from across the world rallied in New York for the launch of its new spring/summer 2015 women's collections, including Olympic gold medalists Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross and Adelina Sotnikova; two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na; and professional basketball star Skylar Diggins.

"Sport and fitness are powering a new lifestyle shift for women around the world," Mark Parker, president and CEO of Nike Inc told the audience, adding: "Our relationship with our digital community of 65m women, coupled with great product innovation, is driving our momentum and we expect to add another $2bn in revenue to reach $7bn by FY17."

Nike already has strong links with women all over the world, noting that the Nike+ Training Club App for women has been downloaded 16m times and 9m women have downloaded the Nike+ Running App.

And the company's focus taps into the "athleisure" trend that is seeing workout wear moving away from the gym to the wider world, where activewear pants, tees and sweatshirts are the new casualwear and sales are outpacing the general apparel market, according to recent US research.

But there's no doubt, too, that the sportswear giant is also facing up to new competition in the sector.

Under Armour has made a major push this year into the women's category with a brand campaign focused solely on its women's line, and a US$15m advertising campaign aimed at women featuring the likes of ballerina Misty Copeland that analysts believe "resonated strongly among female consumers 18-34."

Indeed, findings from an ongoing survey into the popularity of US athletic footwear and apparel brands suggest there has been a huge leap for Under Armour among female consumers when it comes to both athletic brand preference and "cool factor."

While separate research also suggests Under Armour has overtaken Adidas this year in combined apparel and footwear sales to become the second biggest sports brand in the US.

The cross-over from fitness to fashion has also been bolstered by the rise of yoga-wear brands like Lululemon, which showed for the first time during last month's New York Fashion Week - and Gap's Athleta women's athletic wear line, which analysts believe has the potential to reach $1.1bn in sales over the next five years.

So what is in "the most comprehensive and innovative women's collection Nike has ever created?" Not as much as would have been expected. New running, training and sportswear products such as high-performance tights, Nike Flyknit footwear, and new sports bras, along with a line of training apparel and footwear designed in collaboration with Brazil's Pedro Lourenço.

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