Athleisure apparel refers to clothing that is both “athletic” and for “leisure”

Athleisure apparel refers to clothing that is both “athletic” and for “leisure”

Athleisure has become a major contributor to US apparel sales, new data shows, with the coronavirus pandemic only fuelling consumers' appetites for this apparel subcategory.

Of the 250 top online apparel retailers in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1,000, 46% of them sell athleisure.

Athleisure apparel refers to clothing that is both athletic and for leisure that consumers can wear for sport and for everyday comfort. Research firm The NPD Group estimates that active clothing accounted for 28% of total apparel dollars spent in the 12 months ending May 2020, up 4 percentage points from 24% of the apparel market in the 12 months ending May 2018.

And many of these athleisure sales are happening online. Within the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1,000, 250 merchants sell apparel. Within this group, 23 retailers primarily sell athleisure.

The 23 merchants collectively grew online sales 19.1% year over year in 2019, which is faster than the Top 1,000 apparel retailers' online collective growth of 13.7%. The 23 merchants that focus on athletic apparel include some of the largest online merchants such as Nike Inc, TheNorthFace.com, Lululemon Athletica, and Under Armour, all ranked among North America's 100 leading retailers in online sales.

Digital Commerce 360 estimates that for the 23 merchants that focus on athleisure apparel, their total web sales in 2019 generated 19.5% of the online apparel sales of the Top 1,000. This means that even though these retailers only represent 9% of Top 1,000 apparel merchants, they generated one-fifth of apparel sales.

What's more, this doesn't take into account online apparel retailers that sell athleisure as a part of their broader product mix, such as Guess In. (No. 254) and Ashley Stewart Inc (No. 268). These two brands added an athleisure category on their site and have homepage navigation to it.

"There is an overall style shift toward comfort and wellness, and just in general of taking care of yourself," says Meera Bhatia, president of expert services at women's apparel retailer TechStyle, owner of Fabletics.com, an athleisure apparel brand.

The coronavirus pandemic in the US resulted in more consumers working from home than ever before. And with no need to dress up for the office, consumers were more apt to wear sweatpants, pyjamas and athleisure while they worked. In the consumer survey, 14% of consumers purchased comfortable clothes, including pyjama or athleisure online, since the start of Covid-19.

How Americans dress every day has been changing in a casual direction, and Covid-19 will only accelerate that trend, Bhatia says.