Athleisure’s here to stay, and brands are breaking records – ET Retail

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Seven leading sports brands surpassed combined sales of $1 billion (about ₹8,277 crore) in India in 2021-22, driven by increasing awareness about fitness and surging demand for athleisure wear in the country. Puma, Decathlon, Adidas, Reebok, Skechers, Nike and Asics saw a 30-68% year-on-year increase in sales, according to regulatory filings sourced from Altinfo. The sales of these brands taken together surged 52% to ₹8,950 crore from ₹5,871 crore in 2020-21.

Demand for fitness wear and sports equipment for disciplines other than cricket grew as people prioritised health since the onset of Covid-19, said industry executives.”People during the pandemic were focusing on health and fitness and they wanted to evolve their lifestyle. So, there was a huge transition around how people saw health and fitness and that increased demand for us. Athleisure has become the go-to outfit,” said Abhishek Ganguly, managing director, Puma India.

“Nearly half of the Indian population is below 25 years old and things such as fashion consciousness, per capita footwear consumption, and aspiration in tier-2 and tier-3 (cities) will only grow.”

Athleisure's here to stay, and brands are breaking records
With a population of 1.39 billion, India is one of the fastest growing and largest international markets for footwear companies. Brands such as Reebok, Adidas, Nike and Puma have been around for more than two decades in India and have grown by virtue of pushing their wares partnering cricket and other sporting activities. Newer players, however, have been positioning themselves as comfortable lifestyle and regular athletic wear brands.

Companies have also signed Bollywood celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Kriti Sanon, Anushka Sharma, Tiger Shroff and Harrdy Sandhu, as their brand ambassadors, also hoping their social media influence will change their brand perception beyond sporting activities. During the pandemic, companies also got a boost from online sales, which helped brands reach small towns where they had no store presence.

“Some of the trends that emerged, from a fashion and ecommerce point of view, are actually here to stay. For example, athleisure, we thought, will die off, but that isn’t true. People are pairing up sneakers with all their outfits now, and that is here to stay. This started during the pandemic,” Myntra CEO Nandita Sinha told ET earlier this month.

The country has seen increasing interest in sports such as kabaddi, soccer, volleyball, hockey and badminton. It now hosts professional leagues in most of these sporting disciplines, drawing participants from across the globe. Several companies have upped their investments, too. For instance, Puma has reduced its dependence on imports and invested in local manufacturing, which helped the brand increase its local sourcing to 40% last year, from 31% two years ago. Skechers’ chief operating officer David Weinberg said during the September quarter earnings call that the company began the first phase of its 1.1 million square foot distribution centre outside Mumbai, which is planned to be operational by mid-2023.

The performance by sports brands is in line with the overall trend within the apparel and lifestyle segment, where companies including Zara, Uniqlo and Levi’s saw their revenues recover sharply too, indicating increased demand for discretionary products and revenge shopping.

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