The rise in female activewear has driven growth in the UK sportswear market

The rise in female activewear has driven growth in the UK sportswear market

The UK market for sportswear is expected to see considerable growth over the next five years to surpass GBP8bn (US$12.5bn) as the trend for athleisure rockets, a new report has forecast.

According to research by Key Note, the UK market value for sportswear increased by an annual rate of 9.5% in 2014, following growth of 8.7% in 2013 and 5.3% in 2012. Volume sales in the last year were up by 10.7% to 28.2m units, while the average unit price increased by 2.5% to GBP18.64.

This growth, the report suggests, is due to the the growth in women’s sportswear, an increasing number of designer and celebrity collaborations with sports brands, and an ongoing crossover between fashion and sportswear.

Global brands such as Nike have been keen to capitalise on this growth. The US sportswear giant is currently focusing on expanding further into the women's wear sector, positioning itself as the leader of the female activewear sector in a bid to take advantage of market opportunities.

Currently, women's wear accounts for around one-fifth of Nike’s sales, yet is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the business. The company has begun rolling out specific women’s-only sportswear stores to cater to this trend.

And rivals including Reebok, Puma and Under Armour have all launched campaigns targeting female customers this year.

There are also new entrants to the women's sportswear market, including online fast fashion retailers Boohoo and Missguided. Both entered the female fitness market this year, while luxury fashion e-commerce store Net-a-Porter launched its 'Net-a-Sporter' landing page last month, offering sportswear at high-end, designer prices.

Based on current growth rates, Key Note predicts the UK sportswear market will soar by 35.6% between 2015 and 2019, from GBP6.38bn to reach GBP8.65bn, driven by annual rates of growth of between 7.7% and 8.1%.

“As the merging of the sportswear and fashionwear markets shows no signs of slowing down, strong sales growth is expected to be derived from fashion-forward shoppers,” report authors note. “Women’s sportwear is projected to record the strongest growth in value as the ‘athleisure’ trend persists and women demand their own specialist fitness brands. New competition is expected to emerge in the market as fashion retailers launch sportswear lines, women’s-only fitness brands spring up and retro brands make a comeback.”

Additionally, developments in smart, wearable technology are expected to drive innovation in functional sportswear for professional athletes and sports persons, the report predicts, with the likes of smart shirts likely to filter down into the mass market over the coming years.

“As the trend for sportswear worn as fashionwear is expected to grow further and opportunities for sports participation rise, the sportswear market is expected to continue to outpace growth in the wider clothing and footwear market over the next five years.”