The Lululemon Lifestyle: Millennials Seek More Than Just Comfort From Athleisure Wear
From the gym to the office and from the office to happy hour, millennials can be seen decked out in the style called athleisure, documented by Merriam-Webster as “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.”
More technically, athleisure is the athletic apparel worn at the gym — t-shirts, leggings, running shorts, sneakers — except it’s now seen more often outside of it (and there’s really no way to tell if those wearing athleisure clothing actually ever worked out).
This is directly correlated to society’s more relaxed standard for dress codes largely fueled by the millennial generation. The on-the-go lifestyle of young adults today also lends a hand to the new casualized style of dress we are seeing impact the workplace. As athleisure is comfortable, versatile and acceptable in a variety of settings, it’s no wonder that it’s so popular, achieving sales of $43.6 billion in 2015, a 16% increase from the year prior, according to the NPD Group.
But is it really that simple?
We think not. The athleisure market is currently highly saturated, with a slew of brands rushing to take part. From luxury brands (perhaps a comeback for Juicy track suits?) to celebrity lines (the Beyhive’s newest obsession), there is an overabundance of athletic apparel lines that have no differentiating factors when it comes to their products. Consumers can find whatever they wish when it comes to comfort, design, color and fit from any store they decide to walk into or browse online.
This is catching up to retailers in the market, causing a backlash even against brands that are very successful in other segments of apparel retail. Urban Outfitters scaled back production of its athleisure line “Without Walls” just a year after introducing it due to lack of sales, although the company as a whole garnered nearly four percent revenue growth from 2015 to 2016.
Contemporary clothing retailer Theory faced the same predicament and chose not to move forward with its stand-alone activewear line. Kit and Ace, the Canadian technical clothing startup owned by Lululemon’s founding family, laid off nearly 10% of employees at its headquarters in February due to falling profit margins.
Lululemon, Nike and Under Armour, on the other hand, are managing to still find success in the category. Nike and Under Armour placed among the top 15 millennial clothing brands of 2016, according to a survey of 1,500 millennials conducted by ad agency Moosylvania, and Nike was named the No. 1 brand of Gen Z.
This points to the idea that millennials are looking for more than just basic style or comfort when it comes to athleisure. They’re seeking a lifestyle.