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Sportswear rides rising demand wave

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A demand surge than took off in 2020 looks set to continue as India enters a second season of pandemic-driven uncertainty, disruption and at-home fitness fixes.

Just as athleisure, another fashion category that has registered huge demand in the wake of pandemic-infused lockdowns, is sportswear. It is one the very few categories in apparel that was fast selling even in the pandemic. With mini lockdowns and shutdowns making a comeback in India, consumer movement will yet again be limited.  As a result, demand for comfortable yet stylish apparel that can be worn in the comfort of homes is expected to rise again rapidly, leading to sportswear and athleisure gaining ground even more post the lockdown. Being at home for weeks on end, consumers are responding by stocking up on yoga pants, joggers, hoodies and sneakers in large numbers and varieties.

“We have seen consumers take to fitness more than ever before and it has now become a way of life for many. There has been an increase in demand for ‘Fitness and Training’ merchandise because of this. With work from home becoming the new normal, consumers are opting for easy-to-wear, comfortable clothing. Athleisure or lounge wear has seen a lot more demand,” says Vidushi Thapa, Associate Director & Head, Buying and Merchandising, PUMA India. Consumers are largely looking for apparel such as t-shirts, tracks and shorts, which are home essentials. The share of open footwear has also increased. Sportswear and athleisure are two categories that we have seen the fastest revival in.”

Comfort in on top of consumers’ minds, more now than ever. Consumers today are shifting focus from technicalities and performance to comfort oriented silhouettes that promise versatility and utility.

The trend that is significant at the moment is comfort combined with fashion. There is also a clear movement towards wellness practices, leading to climbing sales in yoga pants, track suits, etc. It’s all about ‘being comfortable’. No surprise then that the top selling athleisure products across men’s segments are joggers, track pants and sneakers.

PUMA has registered significant demand for athleisure, home fitness gear as well as workout gear like running t-shirts, training tracks, shorts, training footwear, etc. The brand also has noticed bolstered consumption of kidswear in this segment. “We have also seen a clear pattern in the kidswear segment with the consumption moving up. This could be because kids are staying more at home and are not wearing school uniforms. We also have rolled out exciting print and graphic stories such as International Game and Downtown collections, and fun collaborations in bright and colorful design executions such as Peanuts, Kidsuper studios, Mr. Doodle, Michael Lau, among others,” Thapa informs.

“Our base layers, made with a blend of Merino Wool & Bamboo, are the most innovative products in our collection. Great for running a marathon in New York or hiking through the Great Lakes Trek in Kashmir, they help users perform the sport better. Temperature regulating, anti-odor and lightweight, they are an essential in any sport person’s wardrobe,” says Yuktie Jhangiani Verma,  Founder & CEO, Kosha.

“There is higher demand for cotton leggings and track pants, t-shirts, shorts and sports bras. In terms of colors, there has been a shift in trend from basic core tones to bright hues — neutrals have given way to summer and pastel brights,” states Manab Hembram, Creative Director – Design, Zivame.

According to Pallavi Barman, Head – Marketing & Operations, HRX, loose and oversized athleisure is currently trending. “In terms of current trends, loose oversized clothing has found a new liking. Oversized joggers and tees are very popular now. Plus we are looking at an increase in demand for shorts and tracks as well as trainers and sneakers. Color-wise, we follow trend stories popular worldwide, so lavender, beige, military, khakhi, grey, black, etc., are all loved,” she says.

Apart from product innovation, deploying technology in the supply chain and consumer engagement is helping PUMA come up with incisive solutions, Thapa notes. “We will continue to integrate our offline, online and social media channels to give our consumers the choice of product discovery, trial, purchase and engagement. Moreover, data analysis is helping us understand the way we should approach the future as it throws up new customer trends like what products are selling, what categories are selling, the way consumers are discovering products, how they are searching on PUMA.com, among others. We are following it very closely primarily because of our fixation to improve orientation toward customers,” she goes on to add.

The sportswear segment in India, like many other fashion segments, is undergoing a remarkable change of perception as well as evolution. A noticeable change in the Indian sportswear industry is that it’s becoming increasingly organised; and modern retail is picking pace in small cities too, much to the delight of brands, suppliers and retailers of sportswear and sports lifestyle products.