Adventure travel is helping boost the popularity of performance outdoor apparel

Adventure travel is helping boost the popularity of performance outdoor apparel

The performance outdoor apparel sector is the fastest growing segment in the global sports apparel market, and is set to grow by US$3.5bn over the next six years, according to a new research report published today (29 November) by just-style.

The report, 'Global market review of performance outdoor apparel - forecasts to 2018,' found that North America, Europe and Asia are currently the top three performance outdoor apparel markets - yet emerging markets are set to drive future growth.

Asia is developing fast, driven by rapid economic growth and expanding middle classes in China, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Latin America is also a growing market, led by Brazil in particular. Many of its citizens are now wealthy enough to pursue outdoor leisure hobbies and sales of suitable apparel should boom. Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia could also contribute.

The report suggests that the most dynamic growth will come from China, which benefits from a booming economy, a growing middle-class and increasing consumer consumption. The sector has boomed in China, with retail sales growing from CNY60m (US$9.45m) in 2000 to CNY10.76bn in 2011. A further 20% jump is seen in 2012.

In Europe, the performance outdoor apparel sector has weathered the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis relatively well, with growth forecast to slow during 2012, rather than decline. The sector was valued at US$6.2bn in 2011, and is expected to be worth $7.8bn in 2018, the report forecasts.

The sovereign debt crisis is not the only challenge facing the European market. Unseasonable weather conditions have also affected retail sales, while the strongest regions (Germany and the UK) are saturated with high barriers to entry. The regions with lower penetration and higher potential, however, are suffering from weak purchasing power due to the economic climate.

A number of factors are driving the growth of the outdoor performance apparel sector, including an awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the rising uptake of activities like Nordic walking, climbing and white water rafting.

Changing demographics are also a factor. Women, who tend to take up new sports more readily and replace gear more frequently, are helping to develop the market, as is the ageing population in the US, Japan and Europe.

Blurring boundaries between performance wear and everyday wear are also driving increased consolidation in the sector. The economic challenges faced by retailers also make mergers and joint ventures more attractive to reach a wider audience.

Also on the retail front, specialist sports apparel brands are competing with fashion chains, while department stores compete with mass merchandisers and sporting goods chains in a bid to capture the market.

Single brand stores are declining as private labels, department stores and shop within a shop concepts increase in popularity, which means brand strength and retail strategy are of vital importance.

Innovation is also important, with a focus on fabric innovation including toxin free, environmentally-friendly materials and sourcing, temperature control, friction reduction, water and wind resistance, and moisture management.

This ethical trend is also driving a shift away from outsourcing production overseas, especially in the US market. The ‘Made in the USA' movement hoping to bring some manufacturing operations onshore and back from low-cost locations such as China.

Adventure travel is one of the biggest trends driving the increase in popularity of performance outdoor apparel, the report notes.

Research by The George Washington University, Xola Consulting and the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) in 2010 found that 26% of global travellers engage in adventure activities on vacation. The study valued the international adventure tourism industry at US$89bn, with an estimated growth rate of 17% per year.

According to the ATTA, before 2007 just 42% of tourism boards classified adventure tourism as of "increasing importance". By comparison, in 2011, 89% recognised the sector as important. This is raising the profile of the industry, contributing to the growth of performance outdoor apparel sales, the report found.

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