Lululemon plans to expand its selection of bras this year.

Underscoring the health of the wellness movement, the U.K. sports apparel market will reach 2.5 billion pounds this year — an 8 percent gain from 2016. This compares to a 2.1 percent expected gain in total apparel sales in the U.K., according to a recent report from analytics firm GlobalData.

The increase in sports apparel is being fueled by the ath-leisure trend, researchers of the report said, adding that entrants such as Asos would also boost sales. The firm noted that the increase of sports apparel demonstrates “the extent to which sportswear is outperforming other clothing segments. Indeed, fashion retailers have picked up on the trend for sportswear and will continue to invest as consumer demand for fashion-led sports apparel remains high.”

Asos is rolling out a sportswear launch this November, and will be “competing with more established ranges from H&M, Boohoo, Primark, New Look, Ted Baker, Topshop, Whistles [and] Superdry,” the authors of the report said, adding that sports brands from the Eighties and Nineties “such as Kappa and Ellesse are [also] tapping into market opportunities, due to a resurgence in consumer demand following high-profile attention via Instagram influencers.”

Under Armour’s Eclipse sports bra. 

Despite the crowded field, GlobalData said it “expects the arrival of Asos will further increase activewear spend per head and gain a strong foothold in the market given the brand’s broad appeal, fashion credentials and loyal shopper following.”

Fiona Paton, retail analyst at GlobalData, said the sales growth in ath-leisure “is set to peak in 2017 but it will remain a very popular category over the next five years, outperforming total clothing. The health and well-being trend, influence of high-profile fitness bloggers and continued investment from the government in initiatives such as improving cycle routes will increase consumer participation in sport and exercise — providing retailers with a larger, more varied activewear customer base.”

Paton said “gym fitness” along with swimming and running “are the preferred activities among females and all have seen an increase in participation levels over the last year, according to GlobalData’s survey of 10,000 U.K. consumers.” Paton also noted that the “wellness trend has contributed to this shift, with health and fitness bloggers such as Ella Woodward, Joe Wicks and Shaun T gaining a substantial following and subsequently raising awareness of healthy living and the benefits of regular exercise which all supports the ath-leisure market.”

The analyst also said brands such as Asos (along with Primark and New Look) offer “affordable” and “trend-led” options for female consumers, giving them “access to more choice.” As a result they “will spend more on impulse and will purchase ath-leisure pieces in replacement of core casualwear items.”

Paton said for brands and retailers to compete “in the increasingly crowded sportswear market, more premium brands must find ways of increasing destination appeal, such as working with high-profile celebrities or fitness and sports personalities and enhancing social engagement.”

The analyst said brands such as Lululemon, Sweaty Betty and Nike “are strong examples of brands already engaging with their customers via free gym classes, VIP discounts and yoga and running clubs — services the nonspecialists will find difficult to replicate.”

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