Are Walmart and Abercombie too late for the activewear party?
Walmart and Abercombie & Fitch both recently introduced activewear collections to become the latest chains to jump on the sweaty part of the athleisure bandwagon.
Walmart has partnered with fashion designer Michelle Smith and cycling instructor Stacey Griffith, on a women’s activewear and swim line, “Love & Sports,” with a focus on bold and bright colors. The chain will roll out footwear and accessories this fall.
In a blog entry, Denise Incandela, EVP of apparel and private brands, Walmart U.S., noted that activewear demand has surged during the pandemic, with NPD Group reporting that activewear sales grew 37 percent in 2021. Said Ms. Incandela, “It was only natural for activewear to be the next step in expanding our elevated brands portfolio, and we’re doing it with a bold, exciting brand that fills a white space for high-quality, high-performance activewear and swim without the high price tag.”
Abercrombie has released an activewear sub-brand for women and men, “YPB,” standing for “Your Personal Best.”
Kristin Scott, global brand president at A&F, said in a statement, “We’ve been dedicated to outfitting our millennial consumers for every part of their lives, whether they’re traveling, brunching with friends or celebrating a wedding, for example. Being active is another key part of that lifestyle, and now, with the launch of YPB, we can meet those specific needs.”
Walmart appears to be playing catch up to Target, which last year saw its All in Motion activewear brand become its tenth in-store brand to generate $1 billion in annual sales.
Abercombie in 2015 introduced an athleisure section on its website, “Sport to Street,” but also appears to be behind competitors. H&M Sport was launched in 2013, GapFit in 2016, and American Eagle Outfitters launched the OFFLINE by Aerie activewear sub-brand in 2020. The active category is led by athletic brands, including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Lululemon, Athleta, as well as upstarts such as Gymshark, Fabletics and Vuori.
McKinsey’s January “Sporting Goods 2022: The New Normal Is Here,” report predicted continued strong growth for the global sportswear market “as more people commit to leading healthier and more active lives” and work wardrobes become more relaxed.
- Walmart Fuses Fashion and Fitness With New Activewear and Swim Brand by Designer Michelle Smith and Fitness Superstar Stacey Griffith – Walmart
- Abercrombie & Fitch Jumps into Activewear with Launch of New Sub-Brand, YPB – Abercrombie & Fitch/Globe Newswire
- Sporting Goods 2022: The New Normal Is Here – McKinsey
- The 15 most popular activewear brands of 2022 – USA Today
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is activewear a major or minor opportunity for Walmart and Abercrombie & Fitch? What are the keys for each retailer as each competes for a share of the category?