Rihanna on the catwalkFenty Puma by Rihanna show, Autumn Winter 2017, Paris Fashion Week, France - 06 Mar 2017

Everybody on the bus.

Even some of the most unlikely players are joining the ath-leisure troupe and understandably so — the category has proven to be immensely lucrative and shows no signs of slowing down. Trendalytics’ annual report, “Ath-Leisure Pulse Check” on the segment affirms consumers’ affinity for the trend, highlights the influencers stoking its popularity and the resulting, new products.

A retail data analytics platform, Trendalytics reviews shifts in consumer behavior and their effects on merchandising, products and the shaping of the market. “Consumer interest in health and wellness is only growing stronger. New fitness trends continue to pop up and breed cult followings,” said Karen Moon, chief executive officer of Trendalytics. “Consumers can hold amateur athlete status and are just as aware of the top pro products thanks to the growing impact of micro-influencers across running, yoga, rock climbing and more.”

As awareness of fitness-friendly items increases, so do the offerings. “They now demand more of the clothes they wear, the mattress they sleep on and the food they eat,” said the report. Accordingly brands have responded with a slew of new products for consumer consideration. The main commonality? They all aim to elevate performance — even if the activity is catching up on sleep, digestion or binge-watching Netflix.

The report calls out Eight Sleep and Essentia Water as brands that have responded quickly and successfully to an overarching focus on sleep and general wellness, its benefits and how to improve its quality. “Sleep is the new frontier of wellness,” the report said. “Companies like Eight Sleep and Sleepspace are leveraging technology to help consumers get their best night’s sleep with smart mattresses and tracking devices that monitor sleep patterns.”

As awareness on the benefits of tech-gear builds, consumer expectations are also rising. “From reading blogs and following the Instagrams of their favorite fitness stars, even the amateur athlete is educated on elite technical products and seeking them out more than ever before,” said the report. Cue the rise of compression components — up 22 percent compared to 2016 — and sweat-wicking capabilities, which rose 15 percent from last year.

Hannah Bronfman, adidas, emv, social media, instagram

Hannah Bronfman, Adidas ambassador. 

The focus has also motivated luxury brands to enter the market and break barriers between technology and style. “Gant’s Tech Prep Collection, with its sweat-wicking technology, promises to keep wearers ‘cool and collected’ even in the most stressful of situations,” said the report.

And despite an overwhelming amount of brands that have clamored to the category in the last year, there’s room for more. The report urged brands to consider price point and target audiences in order ensure it’s not lost in the ath-leisure abyss.

“There is overwhelming competition with over 900 brands offering active related apparel. Of the top 100 brands offering women’s active products, over 50 percent are not active-specific brands, indicating the low barrier to entry for the active market. Pure play brands must push the boundaries on innovation, both technically and aesthetically to maintain share,” said Moon.

Brands and retailers will encounter the highest success opportunities in the fast fashion and specialty segments — 75 percent of market share already falls within the mass and premium sectors, the report said. To improve the likelihood of resonating with shoppers, the report recommended investigating the direct-to-consumer approach.

The path less traveled will prove most fruitful for brands looking to break into the category. Ditch running initiatives and yoga posts — the report suggested looking into budding and less obvious fitness trends like tough mudders and outdoor cycling.

Virgil Abloh signing Nike trainers

Virgil Abloh signing Nike trainers.  Delphine Achard/WWD

Influencer marketing strategies will do a brand good — especially ones that resurrect success stories of yesteryear. Look no further than Puma’s return to the spotlight due to its partnership with Rihanna, or Champion’s collaboration with “It” line Vetements for inspiration.

The report noted that the most successful partnerships are those that expand across categories and tapping influencers in a variety of segments. For example, in the past year Nike has partnered with Supreme, Off-White, Bella Hadid, Krispy Kreme and Drake. No social stone left unturned there.

Core categories in the past year have ranged from jogger pants — up 61 percent year-over-year and sport-core, the revival of the Nineties, bold-toned and unisex staples. Dad hats and logo T-shirts have also dominated the Insta-sphere with champions ranging from Kendall Jenner to Chiara Ferragni of the Blonde Salad. Perhaps most impressing was the Kardashian effect on oversized hooded sweatshirts, searches for the style increased by 144 percent compared to last year, the report said.

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