In recent years, the popular fashion industry has undergone a quiet revolution.
According to Global Industry Analysts Inc., sports and fitness apparel clothing will reach $231.7 billion worldwide by 2024.
Whether brunching on a Sunday or jogging on a Tuesday, millennials are much more likely to be in sneakers and an athleisure attire than in your regular jeans-and-tee ensemble. The momentous global shift to activewear has left many big brands scrambling and, at the same time, presented huge opportunities to the forward-thinking independent online merchants.
If you’ve been sitting on the idea of kicking off your own fitness merch brand, then 2019 will be your best chance to make that happen.
1. Where and how to find fitness merch ideas
Launching a sportswear brand follows the same process as any other print on demand business – find an idea, connect it with a market gap and then reach out to your ideal customers. Sounds simple, right? And it is, if you adopt the right research method. Unfortunately, for many shop owners, the ideation stage is draining – finding a winning idea in a crowded market often requires wicked creativity. But if you haven’t got a clear concept in mind just yet, don’t worry – we know where you can go looking for it. To come up with a lucrative idea for your fitness merch, try focusing on the reasons why people work out in the first place.
Pouring over some of the freely available market research will give you a quick insight into the industry trends and a better understanding of what products hold the most potential. Just by looking at the exercise trends research below, you can quickly work out the key sportswear categories that are most in demand – most notably, gym and free weight gear and yoga and dance merch.
Image source: Nielsen Global Research
Image source: Nielsen Global Research
Nielsen Global Consumer Exercise Trends Survey 2014 from Bryan K. O'Rourke
Digging deeper into the survey data, you can gather more information about your target market and their inner drivers to exercise. As soon as you uncover these motivations and know what matters to your potential customers, you can create products that align with their personal values and aspirations. Only by doing your research thoroughly and taking the time to analyse and understand the customer profiles, you’ll have an actual chance at creating fitness merchandise that generates sales. Whether it’s yoga pants, socks or a gym bag, it needs to be authentic and ‘speak’ to your customer.
Image source (left to right): Gymtier | SimplyBe
Another important factor to consider is the shopper’s mindset. Staying fit and leading a healthy lifestyle is an aspiration for many, but it’s one that’s pretty difficult to achieve. Tailoring your product designs and especially your marketing messaging to the various mental stages that people go through before joining the gym (or the active life) could be a money-making strategy.
Millennials are particularly susceptible to the idea of “getting ready” to hitting the gym in style and consider the shopping for gym gear experience as something not to be missed.
Helping newly committed gym-goers to buy their way into the exercise is good for you and good for them – everyone wins. So, when planning your merchandise, make sure you include the key basic accessories and items people might want to buy before joining a gym, such as water bottles, face towels, sneakers, t-shirts, gym bags and other.
2. Trends and spending habits
Image Source: Vogue
Somehow, the workout clothes have spilled out from the gyms and onto the streets – immediately becoming the “trend de jour”. And as a sort of by-product of this sudden change in fashion winds, the apparel industry had turned into a billion-dollar market. Just like that, 2018 have become the year of athleisure and the golden age for unique fitness merch.
Since the market’s shift to activewear, trend-spotting and behavioural marketing in the print-on-demand industry has also grown in popularity by leaps and bounds. Knowing your target customers’ spending habits and keeping tabs on the latest fitness trends is now a crucial part of running a successful POD business.
Growth at traditional sports brands and retailers has been steady and considered over the last two years.
When creating your own fitness merch line, consider the following recent trends in the apparel industry and the key changes in consumer spending habits:
- Plus size activewear has seen a steady increase in sales and big brands are listening: in 2017, Nike has increased its plus size fitness clothing offering by 48%;
- In the last two years, the activewear industry has seen a substantial (90%) increase in demand for activewear products with ‘odour control’ properties; a sizeable (48%) uplift in ‘moisture wicking’ and a 36% lift in sustainable and organic products;
- Cycling shorts have also become a hit in fashion last year, experiencing a 2,000% increase in demand;
- The swimwear category is booming. Active swimwear sales went up by 75% in 2018, with a 128% boost in active bikinis and a 44% increase in swimsuits.
- Although it’s often assumed that the athleisure market is dominated by women, the actual market split is 60% (female) to 40% (male), which only goes to highlight the tremendous opportunity for activewear brands.
- Older millennials (aged 25 - 34) make up the key segment of the target market. This group is also 76% more likely to use their mobile phones to shop for activewear deals rather than buying in-store.
- The global activewear market size is projected to reach $567 billion by 2024.
What trends you need to follow and how to interpret them will largely depend on the type of fitness merch you want to sell.
However, it’s of paramount importance to keep a close eye on the emerging industry trends to catch the opportunities before they go mainstream – whether it’s men’s leggings or activewear dresses, you need to keep your store stocked with potential bestsellers.
3. Design tips & ideas
A growing size of pie eventually leads to a growing crowd of eager eaters and that’s exactly what is happening in the activewear industry.
Asia-Pacific region is expected to be the fastest growing region in terms of sportswear sales, with a 6.9% annual year-on-year growth until 2024. And Europe and the Americas aren’t far behind either. This means scores of new players from all continents are flocking to join and explore the booming market and the competition is getting heated. Those merchants that succeed in building a strong brand and a diverse offering will eventually make themselves seen and earn a place at the table. So how can you be one of them?
One of the key prerequisites for success in the POD business is crafting best-in-class designs. Creative and compelling designs can help new brands build their tribe much faster and attract the best type of shoppers – people who know what they want and are ready to pay for it.
To help you get your designs and the creative process on point, we’ve gathered some useful design tips and guidelines.
How to pick out the right colours?
Some colour combinations are more vibrant than others, so you should approach this process with some care. It’s always a good idea to stock up on the main basic colours, such as white, black and grey, for many gym-goers simply want to avoid any unnecessary attention where they can. Next, study the colour wheel and pick out the colour combinations that you think will appeal to your customers as well as your brand.
Image source: jsgtlr
Consider adding extra design elements
Since the dawn of text-led apparel designs, shoppers have fallen in love with the idea of wearing clothes that align with their personalities and values. This trend is very much alive in the sportswear market, too. To make your products stand out, try playing around with graphic elements, such as icons and fonts. You’ll be surprised how a tiny tweak can totally change a design.
Choose easy-to-work-with products
While capitalizing on trends is critical, you shouldn’t neglect the base of your product offering. Men’s leggings will come and go but the demand for great-looking gym t-shirts will always remain strong. Here are a few bestselling items from our own product catalog that might give you some extra ideas:
Sleeveless performance tee for men and what you can do with it
Image source: TheSouthernCloset101
Women’s leggings and what you can do with them
Image source: SportswearActivewear
Gym socks and what you can do with them
Image Source: Start Fitness
Gym duffle bag and what you can do with it
Image Source: TeeIsland
Accessory pouch and what you can do with it
Image source: ActivelyAutoimmune