Activewear Buyers Drive Apparel Market Growth

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Growth in activewear buoyed the total U.S. apparel market in the 12 months ending June 2014 (July’13—June’14), helping total apparel sales reach $206.3 billion, a 1 percent increase over the prior year, according to The NPD Group. Activewear sales accounted for $33.7 billion, representing 16 percent of the total apparel market, and have played a significant role in the overall success of the total apparel market over the last two years.

Apparel and Activewear (Dollar % Change)

Total Apparel
(w/​ Activewear)
Total Apparel
(w/​o Activewear)
12 months Jul’11-Jun’12 +4 percent +3 percent +8 percent
12 months Jul’12-Jun’13 +4 percent +3 percent +10 percent
12 months Jul’13-Jun’14 +1 percent -1 percent +7 percent


The top three primary uses for activewear are Casual/​Every Day Use, Athletic/​Sport/​Exercise, and School. While use of activewear in Athletic/​Sport/​Exercise declined during the 12 months ending June 2014, School use experienced growth.

Activewear is booming, with sales growth exceeding that of the apparel market as a whole, and it’s because consumers are wearing activewear not only to the gym, in the gym, and from the gym, but they are working out, going out, and even hanging out in activewear,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Consumers are drawn to its comfort and versatility, and the fact that it still makes a fashion statement. Activewear, by nature, also evokes a sense of athleticism and wellbeing, which only adds to its appeal.”

The activewear industry has experienced growth across all channels*, demonstrating that competition exists and it is not limited to athletic retailers.

Retailers and manufacturers across the board know that activewear is active, and they all want a piece of the action,” added Cohen. “Because of this competition, it’s not enough for them to simply jump on the activewear bandwagon. To truly capitalize on this ongoing trend, they need to unveil products that are colorful and unique, and fuel the activewear demand not with repetition, but with innovation and creativity.

Fitness/​gym club members comprise part of the activewear-​buying audience. About 14% of U.S. adults are members of fitness clubs or gyms according to AudienceSCAN. These consumers are over 100% more likely than average to participate in weightlifting, tennis, and running or jogging. These audience members also like active vacations with 32% planning a trip to a state or national park in the next year. To reach these shoppers, marketers should add newspaper — either print or online — to the media mix. Over 30% of these audience members have taken action in the last month as the result of a newspaper ad they've seen.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.