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Sportswear: Is it really worth the sweat for apparel players?

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Sportswear continues to grow strongly due to the rise in healthy living and increased popularity amongst women who work out. The acceptance and introduction of casual wear at work contributed positively to sales. Influenced from the upcoming international sport events and professional leagues that are drawing crowds are further contributing growth. Athletes and celebrities are also drawn to this trend as they partner and start their own athleisure clothing lines. Riding on this growth, companies such as , and have continued to maintain their dominance in the Indian market, however, low barriers to entry has resulted in new players entering the market thus, further intensifying competition.

Sportswear: Is it really worth the sweat for apparel players?
The top sportswear companies such as Adidas, Puma and Nike are already present in this space

Sportswear benefits due to the ongoing healthy living trend

As the day-to-day lives of people continue gaining pace followed by lifestyle changes, there is a strong realisation about its side effects on the health. The prevalence of diabetes amongst population aged between 20-79 increased from 9.8 percent in 2016 to 10.4 percent in 2017 making it amongst the biggest health problem in India. There has also been an increase in the overweight and obese population because of this. To overcome these, people are looking for options to balance work and health so that they could lead a fit life. This has resulted in increased number of people enrolling at fitness centres. Also, more individuals have started scheduling regular walks and jogs which has pushed the demand for sportswear. As this trend grows, people have also started consuming more sports nutrition products to maintain health and vitamins and dietary supplements to achieve overall wellbeing.

Women’s focus shift from only beauty to holistic wellbeing

Traditionally, women were not actively involved in sports or any other physical activity due to their singular role of being a homemaker to support the family. However, this has been changed as more women are stepping outside their house for work and education. This has resulted in more women thinking about maintaining holistic wellbeing and scheduling workouts to take care of their health. Earlier women were not very keen to join fitness centres due to the notion that working out with weights could make a woman muscular. However, with social media and increased awareness created by fitness centres there has been a decline in this thought, resulting in increased enrolment from women.

Also, additional group classes such as aerobics, dance and zumba organised by these centres have created further interest amongst women. Taking a note of this, companies are now offering sportswear targeted specifically towards women which was earlier non-existent in the country. Now women want to look fashionable yet comfortable in their workout attire resulting in more options and stronger sales.

Casual wear is becoming a norm even in workplaces

Earlier, the office attire in India was restricted to formals. However, with changing times, as the stress levels at work increase and employees spend more time at offices, the HR departments of companies are playing a more active role to improve work places. Part of it has been the realisation that relaxing restrictions on the attire and working hours could go a long way to improve productivity and employee satisfaction. Also, the younger workforce does not like being told about what they should wear at a workplace. As these factors result in relaxation of rules, the demand for comfortable clothing possessing attributes such as being stretchable, breathable yet casual has gone up.

This resulted in a strong demand for athleisure clothing. As this fashion trend continues to kick in, people wearing fashionable sport clothing at work such as hoodies and t-shirts has gone up. The top sportswear companies such as Adidas, Puma and Nike are already present in this space. However, several other players such as Jockey are looking to expand in this segment.

Bollywood actors and sports leagues endorse and promote sportswear

Athletes and celebrities starting their own sportswear clothing lines As the demand for sportswear grows, several actors and athletes have partnered and started their own sportswear brands. For example, actors Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff introduced brands such as HRX and Prowl. Also, cricketers MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh partnered and launched brands such as Seven and YouWeCan (). As these celebrities have a strong following amongst the masses, they have managed to build a demand for sportswear. Also, as these products are competitively prices, they could easily penetrate the Indian market propelling growth.

Increasing popularity of sports professional leagues benefitting sportswear sales

The number of professional leagues started in the country in the last 5 years have benefitted the sportswear industry. For example, Pro-Kabaddi League, Hockey India League, Premier Badminton League and Indian Super League that were started during this period followed by the already famous Indian Premier League for cricket are drawing strong crowds to the stadiums who are dawning their favourite team jerseys and pushing sales. Also, there are many social hangouts coming up in the country that telecast live sport events, both domestic and international, where supporters throng wearing jerseys or sportswear.

Though sportwear is small, competition between brands is intense

New domestic and international players intensifying competition Looking at the market opportunity, many companies have entered the segment thus, intensifying competition. Decathlon with its unique model of offering sportswear spanning across several sports under one roof has proved to be a success in India. It has also built its digital platform to offer online purchases. Brands such as HRX and YWC are a few domestic brands that are creating waves due to their affordable offerings. This has also been the case with major retailers such as Future Group and Reliance Trends that are now offering their own private labels. Innerwear company Jockey is also looking to expand its offerings to the sportswear portfolio and offer athleisure wear. A big international player that is gradually building its presence in the country through internet retailing has been Under Armour. All these players continue to compete making the Indian competitive landscape for sportswear fragmented.

International brands continue their dominance

The sportswear market in India continues to be led by Adidas, Puma and Nike. These companies continue to account for a strong market share backed by their strong global brand recognition as they continue to endorse top athletes globally. Their strong sourcing strategies backed by an Omnichannel distribution network continues to benefit them. However, looking at the market opportunity, many other apparel companies are entering the segment, thus intensifying competition.

Conclusion

The sportswear segment is projected to grow exponentially over the next five years. The above trends and influencing factors backed by a young consumer base, omnichannel distribution networks and increased disposable incomes are only going to further propel the growth in the next five years. However, as the competition intensifies, brands would have to work harder on their promotion strategies and digital presence to maintain sustained levels of brand recognition. Also, affordability of sportswear would impact market share as international sportswear brands continue to be expensive giving opportunity to domestic brands.