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Tech | November 2014

Winning in the US activewear market

Cotton Incorporated´s Customer Comments Research´ study reveals that synthetic activewear is significantly more likely than cotton activewear to have customer complaints about irritation related to itching, scratching, and chaffing.

A revolution in the US activewear market is being driven by the convergence of several consumer and retail trends. According to Cotton Incorporated´s 2014 Sports Apparel Survey, more than 9 in 10 consumers say they wear athleticwear for activities other than exercise. Increased consumer demand has prompted US athletic apparel sales to grow at double the rate of non-active apparel sales for several years. Strong sales growth has convinced mass merchants, fast-fashion retailers, and luxury brands to enter or increase offerings in this $33 billion market, previously dominated by a smaller cadre of outdoor and sports apparel retailers and brands.

While price ranks as the third most important factor when shoppers purchase clothing in general, price is the sixth most important purchase driver among consumers buying active apparel. Less price sensitivity may allow retailers and brands to charge higher prices for active clothing items and reap the benefit of larger profit margins on these clothing items. The ability to sustain a thriving and lucrative activewear line that appeals to consumers will require attention to comfort, fashion, and performance.

Regardless of demographics, exercise frequency/intensity, or sports activity, comfort (42 per cent) is the top factor consumers like most about their favorite activewear item, followed by fit (16 per cent), breathability (15 per cent), and style (14 per cent). In fact, 73 per cent of consumers who have adopted the athleisure trend of wearing active apparel for purposes other than exercise say comfort is the reason. More consumers describe cotton activewear as the most comfortable (53 per cent), when compared with active clothing made from synthetics like polyester (10 per cent) and nylon (11 per cent). Consumers report that the top reason they avoid polyester activewear is that it is uncomfortable (35 per cent).

Regardless of demographics, exercise frequency/intensity, or sports activity, comfort (42 per cent) is the top factor consumers like most about their favorite activewear item, followed by fit (16 per cent), breathability (15 per cent), and style (14 per cent). In fact, 73 per cent of consumers who have adopted the athleisure trend of wearing active apparel for purposes other than exercise say comfort is the reason. More consumers describe cotton activewear as the most comfortable (53 per cent), when compared with active clothing made from synthetics like polyester (10 per cent) and nylon (11 per cent). Consumers report that the top reason they avoid polyester activewear is that it is uncomfortable (35 per cent).

Cotton Incorporated´s Customer Comments Research´ study reveals that synthetic activewear is significantly more likely than cotton activewear to have customer complaints about irritation related to itching, scratching, and chaffing, as well as odour and durability issues like pilling and snagging. In contrast, consumers report issues with cotton activewear shrinking, fading, and stretching-all concerns that can be minimized during textiles processing and with clothing care education. Addressing customer reported issues about comfort, durability, and odour could play a significant role in bolstering stronger sales growth for activewear.

Lifestyle and fashion drivers
With competition intensifying as a result of additional retailers and brands offering athletic apparel lines, the development of targeted strategies to reach shoppers is vital for success. Some outdoor activewear retailers have started initiatives to engage with their customers around clothing care and sustainable manufacturing practices. Customer outreach efforts appeal to about 4<

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