Fitness fanatics and couch potatoes alike helped elevate active apparel to healthy increases in the first eight months of 2013.

Activewear sales grew 7.2 percent, to $17.64 billion, in the period from January to August, a rate of expansion that was twice as brisk as the 3.6 percent increase in overall apparel sales registered during the first seven months of the year, when clothing sales hit $106.57 billion.

As was the case in apparel overall, men’s activewear grew faster than women’s — up 7.5 percent to $7.77 billion versus up 4.9 percent to $7.46 billion. Both categories, however, fell short of the 14.2 percent growth in children’s activewear, to $2.4 billion.


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Athletic footwear lagged its apparel counterpart, growing just 0.6 percent, to $17.93 billion, despite 6.8 percent growth for the category in women’s, which was up 6.8 percent to $5.53 billion. The women’s increase put the category in positive territory despite a 2.2 percent decline in sales of men’s athletic footwear, to $9.07 billion, and a 1.3 percent contraction in children’s, to $3.33 billion.

Reflecting the continuing trend toward looking active even when sedentary, the biggest gains in the footwear category came from the casual athletic segment, which grew 6 percent overall to $4.99 billion during the eight months. Women’s gains within this area were strongest — up 9.5 percent to $1.01 billion — but sales also grew in men’s (up 6.3 percent to $2.39 billion) and children’s (up 3.4 percent to $1.59 billion).

“Part of the reason activewear products are growing faster than the overall business is attributed to the consumer’s passion to get more fit,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “But the major influence on the rise in sales, especially in women’s, is the desire to look more active.”

Typical of the trend is the growth in yoga pants, which, according to Cohen, women “can wear to the gym, in the gym and from the gym.” Sales of women’s active pants were up 10.2 percent in the eight-month period to $1.09 billion. Women’s sweatshirt sales were up a greater percentage — 10.7 percent — but to a lower level — $984.2 million. Sales of active knit tops for women were up 8.8 percent to $1.87 billion.

NPD reported earlier in the week that during the first seven months of the year, women’s wear sales were up 2.1 percent to $61.81 billion and men’s was up 6 percent to $29.92 billion. Total figures for apparel include those in the activewear segment, NPD said.