By  on October 1, 2007

Active apparel sales are growing as activewear becomes more accepted as fashion, according to The NPD Group's second survey of the global sports market.

World consumption of sporting goods increased 4 percent to $256 billion, with apparel sales driving growth in the market. Apparel accounts for almost half of sector revenues at $113 billion, a 6 percent increase compared with 2005.

"Apparel will continue to show the biggest growth rates in the sports market...primarily due to changing lifestyles worldwide," NPD analyst Renaud Vaschalde said in a statement. "The trend shows more people are willing to wear sports or sports-style clothing. They have become more accepting of casual dressing not just because it's fashionable, but because it is also practical."

NPD divides the global sports market into four segments: apparel, footwear, equipment and bicycles. Global athletic footwear sales increased 3 percent, equipment sales rose 4 percent and bicycle sales gained 1 percent.

Global sports sales are concentrated in a small group of countries, with the top nine nations for sporting goods sales accounting for two-thirds of global sports market sales, but less than one-third of the population. For example, the U.S. sports market led apparel sales with 8 percent growth, compared with increases of 5 percent in Asia and 3 percent in Europe. On the other hand, China is growing at 13 percent, but still accounts for only $6.7 billion in sales, averaging just $5 per capita spending, compared with $338 per capita in the U.S.

China is one of the two sectors in which Vaschalde sees growth opportunities in the activewear market. The other is outdoor, as "we are seeing an increasing awareness of the environment that, coupled with people's continuing love affair with nature, could pose significant opportunities for growth," he noted.

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