Athleisure wear sales take off as Americans #stayhome

Alison Wiltshire

23 Apr 2020

What do you call clothing that you wear before, during and after the gym? The answer is athleisure wear and it’s having a moment.

Right now, as we are all #stayhome, there’s little need to get dressed at all. No school run, no commute, no trip to the gym, no eating out, dancing or dating. No wonder clothing sales have fallen off a cliff. US Census Bureau reports clothing and clothing accessories stores were down 50.7 per cent in March compared with 2019. 

Tempting as it is to stay in your sweats or dressing gown, it does help to get dressed if you’re going to work, even if it’s only at the kitchen table. Especially for video calls. A judge in Florida recently wrote to remind lawyers to get up and dress properly for online hearings. Apparently, one male lawyer had appeared shirtless and a female attorney appeared from her bed, still under the covers.

Staying in PJs all day isn’t the answer. When we look better, we feel better. Which explains the uplift in sales of active wear and athleisure ranges. Some stylish folk may go with wide leg linen pants and a lightweight cashmere sweater, but for most us, it’s time for something loose, something stretchy, something comfy – sweatpants, leggings and oversize T shirts. 

It’s a trend across the board. According to WWD, sales of sweatpants have surged as Americans spend more time at home.  Net-a-porter reports a 40 per cent increase in general sweatpants sales in the first week of COVID-19 lockdown, and analysts say ASOS’ active wear range will contribute to its ability to weather the retail storm. Even high profile influencers such as Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid have swapped designer wear for lower key leisure outfits. 

Of course, before the current #stayhome era, athleisure was already a growth category, driven by the pursuit of personal health and wellbeing (see our recent blog on this topic here), more flexible workstyles and corporate cultures that champion informality. According to Global Data, the global athleisure market was forecast to rise 9.0 per cent in 2019 and be worth $570bn by 2023. Online is predicted to be the fastest growing channel for the women’s activewear market.

Right now though, consumers are going to be very careful with their spending. They’re on reduced hours, furloughed or being let go. Incomes are down and the future is uncertain. Individuals will want to justify purchases and buy clothing and footwear not just for here and now but will take them into life after lockdown. Responsible retailers will guide shoppers to the right products and support good purchasing decisions (it’s hard to make returns when you can’t leave the house). Social proof messaging can help deliver that experience. 

Social proof acts as a virtual sales associate, using data based on the behavior of other customers, and messages that reflect the brand identity. It can help consumers (some of them online for the first time) to:

  • understand their options with real time information on stock levels or sizing information (‘95% of buyers said this item comes true to size’)
  • understand what’s trending, what’s hot
  • have confidence in their decision (‘Great choice – 156 people have bought this in the past 24 hours’)
  • feel part of a bigger community: (’19 other people are looking at this right now’) – in other words, you may be shopping online but you are not alone in the store. 

Life is not going back to normal all at once. It’s quite possible that the sudden transition to more flexible working may stick around. For many people, that will make life a little easier, a little more comfortable. But whatever comes next, athleisure wear is unlikely to fall out of favor. In the meantime, social proof can help give every customer a positive online experience and feel cared for and connected with their retailer.

As millions of #stayhome consumers turn to online shopping, retailers are working flat out to make sure their websites can meet demand. In response, Taggstar’s put in place extra resources to help retailers introduce social proof at speed. Getting social proof operational on a website need only take days. Our priority at this time is to support retailers so that they can provide the best possible service to all their customers.

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