Deep Dive: Athleisure
As more people have ditched their offices for the couch this year, so too have they replaced their suits, ties, dresses, and blouses with more comfortable and casual athleisure wear. While most retail sectors, including clothing, have suffered due to the current pandemic, companies such as Nike, Reebok, New Balance, and Lululemon have seen the demand for their products increase. Today, we'll look at some of the moves these companies have made in the past few months as they look to increase their market share further and drive revenues given their newfound importance in our daily lives.
- Yesterday, Nike officially launched its maternity line. This clothing line has been specially designed to adapt to a woman's body before, during, and after pregnancy. The launch comes a year after Nike faced significant allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against women. With women's clothing, its fastest-growing category, the new maternity line allows it to invest heavily in repairing its public image.
- Reebok launched its maternity line a year ago, capitalizing on its main rival's negative publicity. It also has partnered with numerous female celebrities, including Victoria Beckham and Cardi B. More recently, Reebok launched its line of facemasks for athletes. A design accompanied this announcement for "smart masks," which are similar to Google Glasses (in function) and offer athletes or casual gymgoers an overview of their heart rate, breathing rate, and muscles, all while protecting them from COVID-19 or any future airborne risks. When launching the designs, Reebok's Head of European Innovation Lab noted that masks are worn for all outdoor activities in Asia and that he believes the same will become true for the rest of the world.
- Lululemon purchased Mirror, an interactive in-home fitness mirror, for $500m this summer. The purchase gives the company a new outlet to market to consumers in their own homes and potentially sell to them in the future without needing to go to a website or visit a store. By establishing itself as a critical player in the emerging home fitness market, Lululemon has found a unique way to reach its core customers without the national exposure that larger brands get through sponsorships with significant athletes and sports leagues.
Under Armour and New Balance have both also leveraged their positions to sell "sports masks." These masks are designed for high-intensity use by athletes and use the same principles of breathability, stability, and durability underpinning the rest of their clothing lines.
If the market continues to shift away from formal wear and towards athleisure wear, each of these companies will need to continue developing unique strategies to market their products. Lululemon's acquisition of Mirror demonstrates a non-traditional approach to reaching target customers. Nike's attempts to rehab its image shows a more defensive strategy for the current market leader while Under Armour, New Balance, and Reebok continue to look for market opportunities and exploit them to grow their core brand.