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M&S sees 52% upswing in ‘athleisure’ sales as lockdown drives 84% upswing across the sector

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M&S: Leading the switch to athleisure (Image: M&S)
M&S: Leading the switch to athleisure (Image: M&S)
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Athleisure is now a big driver of online fashion sales, with M&S and Sweaty Betty contributing to a 84% up tick in sales – but nation still buys smart tops for Zooming

M&S reported that 52% of its customers now wear athleisure items more often as everyday clothing when compared to last year, prompting Jill Stanton, its womenswear and kidswear director, to declare that 2020 ‘cemented activewear as a staple’ of the nation’s wardrobes.

 

In January, M&S announced it would expand its activewear range, Goodmove, to Kids and Men as demand for athleisure rose during the pandemic; online sales of its activewear grew 200% between March and September 2020.

 

Similarly, Sweaty Betty saw a 60% rise in revenues in 2020, prompted by consumers turning to athleisure or investing in activewear as they worked out at home with gyms closed during lockdown.

 

Order volumes of women’s athleisure apparel have risen 84% since the start of the pandemic in 2020, according to data from True Fit’s Fashion Genome, a connected data set for fashion drawing on data from 17,000 retail brands and input from 180 million True Fit Members, who are registered on the platform.

 

Order volumes of women’s athleisure bottoms peaked in December 2020, with almost five times the volumes of orders placed in April during the first national lockdown. Men’s athleisure clothing sales weren’t as pronounced as the rise in demand among female shoppers for leisurewear, but still finished the year +20% higher in terms of order volumes than in 2019.

 

Meanwhile, with most social occasions cancelled due to covid-19 restrictions, dresses of sales and women’s formal wear never reached 2019 levels throughout last year, according to True Fit’s data. Order volumes for dresses plummeted to -60% year on year during the first lockdown in April and only ever recovered to -5% of last year’s volumes in July, when some UK restrictions were eased and limited social mixing was permitted, including the reopening of hospitality venues.

 

However, as restrictions were once again tightened, cancelling the usual Christmas festivities – from office parties to family gatherings – order volumes of dresses fell back to -35% year-on-year by December.

 

Sarah Curran Usher MBE, GM EMEA at True Fit, explains: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen emerging consumer behaviours and demand changes that have delivered all sorts of category curveballs – and not just in fashion. Who knew in Spring 2020 jigsaws would have become sell-out items and, even those of us who’d never dream of glamping pre-pandemic, would all start clamouring for camping equipment at unprecedented demand levels. And so, in fashion, we have seen the trend for athleisure – which was already growing in popularity – become accelerated and sustained as home comforts and at home workouts became the order of the day.”

 

She adds: “Being able to understand and keep up with the emerging behaviours, relies on being able to draw insight on how customers shop across product attributes - from size and fit to style – and categories, both within and outside of your brand. This can then inform key decisions across the business – from merchandising to marketing – so that emerging needs of shoppers can be met on a true one-to-one, ongoing basis.”

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