L.L. Bean unveils athleisure collection

Feb. 12, 2021 RETAIL DIVE Dive Brief:

  • L.L. Bean has joined the athleisure trend with a collection of joggers, jackets, hoodies, footwear and other items.

  • The assortment includes newly introduced products as well as previously featured staples, according to the retailer's online product guide.

  • While total apparel sales declined 19% last year, sales of "comfy cozy categories" were up: sweatpants sales rose 17%, sleepwear 6% and sports bras 10%, according to a report from the NPD Group this month.

Dive Insight: Many of the items in L.L. Bean's collection are familiar to its customers, and most if not all are typical from a retailer that has been all about outdoor activities and comfortable apparel for more than a century. The pandemic has stoked demand for those things, however, and that isn't something any apparel seller can ignore, even if it's more of a marketing play than a merchandising one. As the company said in an email, the collection is, "Debuting at a time that feels especially relevant." Moreover, the trend isn't likely to wane much, with "hybrid" items like "coatigans" continuing to grab share, according to NPD. "Once consumers do return to pre-pandemic routines and activities, the demand will be even higher for hybrid clothing intertwining dress and comfort," NPD Apparel Industry Analyst Maria Rugolo said in emailed comments. "With that, comfort and active apparel's growth is still not enough to offset losses stemming from the other apparel categories. It is necessary for brands to maintain their heritage, but also determine what elements of comfort to infuse in their products." While the expanding availability of vaccines suggests that the pandemic could wind down this year, and some observers believe that will unleash some desire to dress up, many consumers will continue to opt for comfort, even for work and special events. Analysts at the NPD Group forecast some recovery in the fashion category, especially in footwear, but say it will regain less than half of the volume lost in 2020. "Pent-up demand will drive a short-term boost, but the industry needs to be prepared for a long-term shift in consumer preferences and innovate accordingly," Beth Goldstein, NPD's fashion footwear and accessories analyst, said in emailed comments.

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