Athleisure, especially the sneaker culture, is growing in popularity as the idea of a multifunctional wardrobe takes off amongst consumers across ages. Athleisure brands will be very quick to point out that their products are more than just sporting goods; it is about finding the sweet spot between function and fashion. Sporting goods retailers like Decathlon focus on bringing in sports gear for a wide range of sports and price them competitively. The sneaker culture retailers such as Foot Locker, AW Lab and JD Sports carry fashion products that can be incorporated in everyday wear for leisure, at work, at school or both.
Analytics firm GlobalData expects athleisure retailers to continue to expand as the athleisure wear market is poised to expand by nine per cent worldwide in 2019. This market is set to outperform the global clothing and footwear market beyond 2023, it said. GlobalData’s analysis of the atheleisure trends found that 68 per cent of consumers who purchased clothing for sports also wore them for eating out and shopping, reinforcing the growing trend of owning a multifunctional wardrobe. The report said that atheleisure brands are taking advantage of the fact that consumers are keen to pair sportswear with core wardrobe pieces, giving sportswear brands the opportunity to tap new consumer targets and diversify into new products areas.
What’s driving athleisure in Singapore and Southeast Asia
In the tropics, comfort is a key factor in the choice of apparel. Athleisure products are alluring because they make it easy for users to move freely and help to control perspiration. Today, it is common knowledge that the yoga top you wear, the tights you are in and the footwear you are walking in has to speak about your identity and fashion sense. The influence of pop culture has also bolstered the sneaker style. After pop singers were spotted wearing sneakers such as Selena Gomez in a PUMA Cali, Justin Bieber in a Jordan AJ 1 Mid and Kanye West in a Karhu Fusion, the sales of these items skyrocketed.
In 2017, after launching their flagship store in Singapore, AW Lab announced they were looking to increase their presence in Singapore and Malaysia. Just over half a year from launching their Singapore flagship store, they launched their Malaysia flagship store.
Foot Locker, an American athleisure retailer took up more than 5,000 sf of space at the newly opened PLQ Mall, their fifth store since opening their first outlet in 2018. According to reports, the brand is looking to open a total of 45 stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong in 2019 and will continue to look to expand their presence in Asia for the next two years. They currently have five stores in Singapore and a power flagship store in Hong Kong. JD Sports recently opened their third store at Funan, taking up 2,788 sf of space and is adding to that footprint with a 5,000 sf store in Bugis.
The Southeast Asian markets of Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand are fertile grounds for growth. These markets have large swathes of young, economically active and tech savvy consumers. Approximately 415 million people in SEA are able to access the Internet, which was a huge contrast to the 380 million people just a year ago. This represents tremendous potential for athleisure brands like Foot Locker whose marketing strategy leans heavily on shoppers buying online and collecting instore. This strategy hinges on the premise that shoppers want to be able to touch and feel and try on a pair of shoes before they make the final purchase.
Outlook is bright for big athleisure brands
Market observers say athleisure brands should differentiate themselves from local sneaker retailers, particularly in markets such as Hong Kong where the sneaker culture is deeply entrenched. In Singapore and Southeast Asia, the larger athleisure brands still maintain some advantage over smaller brands with a larger stock repository and a wider variety of merchandise compared to smaller brands and re-sellers. Consumers tend to want to be able to pick and choose from a wider selection of products. The large athleisure brands have the upper hand in terms of being able to control production numbers and price. Equally important, these brands have the deep pockets to be able to shape the sneaker culture through very targeted marketing campaigns.
Today, retailtainment is the next big thing. In Hong Kong, Foot Locker curated an entire unique experience for shoppers, from free haircuts in retro barbershop chairs to Xbox One X consoles, amongst other street art murals. The possibilities are endless when athleisure brands collaborate with like-minded brands to curate the best possible experience for sneaker fans across this region.
The pace of athleisure store openings in Singapore and Southeast Asia has so far been measured with limited competition from local sneaker retailers. The athleisure brands have appeared to have struck a winning formula with the economically active millennials eager to express themselves through the shoes they wear. The buzz around athleisure is going to stay for a while.
The above article originally appeared on The Business Times under the headline, “Athleisure a growing trend that’s here to stay,” on 4 November 2019.