Sportswear, fitness items buck the slowdown trend

Devika Singh
Athleisure or athletic wear meant for everyday use is what most retailers are optimistic about.

While most segments of the retail industry have been reeling under the slowdown, fitness and sportswear brands seem to have managed to hold their own, registering sales growth in 2019. According to retail analysts, while the retail industry registered a nominal growth of 8-9% during the year, sportswear as a category saw growth of 12-14%. The size of the branded sportswear market in India is pegged at Rs 12,000-14,000 crore currently.

Experts cite the growing popularity of athleisure and rising awareness among consumers to be fit as reasons for the growth in the segment.

According to Abhishek Ganguly, managing director at Puma India, the company’s revenue grew by 23% in FY19 while its same-store sales grew by 17% during the period. The company claims to have clocked a revenue of Rs 1,413 crore in FY19.

"We have seen the overall trend changing as consumers are getting more active, playing more sports, doing more fitness activities and hence, consumption is growing. We are seeing traction for lifestyle (athleisure) and running products," adds Ganguly.

Athleisure or athletic wear meant for everyday use is what most retailers are optimistic about.

"Athleisure is a very powerful trend that is driving global fashion and this is happening in India, too. It has become a daily wear fashion choice," says Ankur Bisen, senior vice president (retail) at consulting firm Technopak Advisors.

While several western wear players are dabbling in athleisure, it is a big source of revenue for sports brands too. FILA India, for example, claims to get 45-50% of sales from lifestyle products.

"The global trend of athleisure is working as a tailwind for us. People have started using more sneakers and joggers as compared to chinos and formal shoes," says Rakesh Singh Kathayat, chief operating officer, Cravatex Brands, which holds exclusive licensing rights for FILA in India.

According to Singh, FILA’s sales grew by 70% in India in 2019. The growth was driven by the company’s expansion in offline retail as well as increase in consumer demand. FILA India has been expanding its offline presence and is present in 24 exclusive brand outlets (EBOs) and 600 multi-brand outlets (MBOs). It has added 20 EBOs and 300 MBOs in the last one year itself.

Furthermore, the increased demand from towns beyond metros and tier-1 cities aided by online channels is also fuelling growth.

"Initially, people went online for deals but now it has become more about convenience. Our average selling price on online channels has gone up by 20-22% in the last one year while on offline it has risen by 10-15%," says Ganguly of Puma India. Puma gets 28% of its sales from online channels, while FILA India sees 30% of its sales from them.

According to Dev Iyer, vice president, Flipkart Fashion, the company is seeing growth for its sportswear and athleisure products across the country.

The growing consciousness for fitness has led to growth across product categories including wearables and sports goods. Flipkart, for example, launched private label Adrenex last year to tap into this. The wearables market in India saw a growth of 168.3% in 2019, as per a recent IDC report, and a total of 14.9 million units were sold. Ayushman Chiranewala, marketing head, Fastrack, says that wearables was one of its strongest performing segments in 2019.