Leading European textile and garment group Nextil is preparing to launch new athleisure and wellness products to tap into changing consumer habits resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Spanish company, which owns stretch fabric manufacturer Dogi, knitwear producers Treiss and Rites, and swimwear specialist Anna Llop, covers everything from fabric design to the final garment.

It has exclusively told just-style that the new garments will be part of its relaunched sports and athleisure segment, and will be developed through Playvest, its Portuguese manufacturer of sportswear, outerwear, underwear and shapewear produced on seamless jacquard looms.

Demand for loungewear and athleisure wear has been one of the bright spots of the coronavirus lockdown, with people seeking comfortable clothing while they were confined to their homes. There is also expected to be an increased consumer focus on the outdoors, health and wellbeing post-pandemic, which could lift activity-based ranges.

"We will develop innovative, comfortable, quality and more sustainable products," Nextil says. "We offer sustainable solutions and have a sustainable supply chain. Our proximity to European and American markets saves carbon footprint."

The new products are being tested with junior and senior athletes – and will be released in September and aimed at prestigious sport brands.

The plans come after Nextil, whose other brands include EFA, Ritex and SICI93, posted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of EUR1m (US$1.13m) in the first quarter of the year. 

This was down EUR0.5m on the same period of last year, after most commercial activity stopped in February in markets such as China and Italy due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Turnover for the first three months was down 13.8% to EUR21.1m, but the company says most customers did not cancel orders, so turnover is expected to recover from the second half of the year.

Net financial debt at 31 March was EUR49.5m, only EUR1.3m higher than at the end of 2019.

Hardest hit was Nextil's fabric business unit, with a 27% drop in sales and an EBITDA loss of EUR0.6m, as the halt in activity in China during the quarter led to a lack of availability of fabrics. 

"Even so, the impact on results has been mitigated by the previous measures implemented to improve the structure of the group, the optimisation of processes and the commercial drive," the company said.

Within this unit, the good performance of EFA (Elastic Fabrics of America) following a restructuring in the second half of 2019 led to a recovery in EBITDA of EUR0.4m.

"Next quarter the effects of the crisis are expected to continue, with still uncertain behaviour in lingerie and swimwear. Even so, most customers have maintained their orders, which will be served when commercial activity resumes, so business figures will gradually recover."

In the garment business unit, EBITDA was flat at EUR1.7m. Turnover in the first quarter slipped just 2.5% on the same period last year to EUR11.3m, led by a 79% jump at high-end Portuguese knitted fashion wear manufacturer SICI93. 

While not expecting growth in this unit in the second half of last year, Nextil also reported that major customers from the sports and fashion sectors are starting to apply for licences to use the Greendyes natural dyeing process – with "very significant growth expected by the end of 2020."

Developed by the company's recently acquired Greendyes Laboratory, the dyes are based on a range of mineral and vegetal pigments as well those based on seaweed and micro-organism extracts, and can be used on yarns and rolls of fabrics as well as finished products made from natural fibres like cotton, linen, silk or wool, as well as synthetic or bio-synthetic fibres. 

The dyes are made using an eco-friendly water-saving process, with the water recycled after each use, slashing energy consumption and avoiding toxic emissions.