Right Fit
Business Today|June 16, 2019
Right Fit

Increased awareness about fitness is powering the sports and fitness wear market, giving segments such as athleisure a boost.

K.T.P. Radhika

THIS JANUARY 47,000 runners participated in the 16th edition of the Tata Mumbai marathon. That was a 22-per cent rise from last year, thanks to rising interest among people in fitness and healthy living. Mumbai marathon is not alone. Several big and small running, walking and cycling events across the country now draw huge crowds. Last year alone, India saw around 500 half-marathon (21.1 km) and marathon (42.2 km) events along with many small distance runs, according to India running. com, an online community that curates running events in India.

As India runs, jumps and hikes, the sports and fitness wear segment is opening up fresh opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs. While Adidas (including Reebok), Puma and Nike lead the organised part of the Indian sportswear market, there are others too. International brands Asics and Skechers set up shop in India a few years ago; Denmark-based Hummel launched its Indian operations early last year; and American brand Under Armour arrived this year.

“Awareness around healthy lifestyles is increasing ,” says Abhishek Ganguly, Managing Director, Puma India. “Also, many people are approaching sports both professionally and for recreation. This is fuelling our growth in sportswear.”

New Trends

Till about six years ago, these companies’ focus was only on performance wear. That changed around 2015/16. “Performance wear is a small market in India. But when the fashion trend changed and youngsters wanted to look sporty even if they did not play any sport, it opened up the market for ‘athleisure’ wear, which is driving growth in this segment,” says Shivam Kataria, Vice-President at SSIPL Retail, a Delhi-based sportswear manufacturer and retailer that also makes footwear for various international sports brands.

The trend that combines active wear and leisure wear is here to stay, say industry experts. That the market is growing around 25 per cent year on year doesn’t come as a surprise as sportswear as well as lifestyle brands have been expanding their athleisure footprint for the past two years. Adidas, for instance, has set up exclusive retail stores for Adidas Originals, its street collection. Puma and Nike too are fast expanding their presence in this segment.

“The popularity of sportswear in everyday fashion is increasing and boosting our growth,” says Puma’s Ganguly. There is a large set of aspirational consumers that wants to be ahead of the curve and for them fashionability is more important than grabbing an older season’s merchandise at a great price, he notes. “We have seen demand for our products on the day of their global launch itself,” he adds.

Catching up with sportswear brands are apparel brands such as Arvind Lifestyle, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail and online fashion retailer Myntra through its brand HRX. Innerwear major Jockey launched its athleisure range in 2017. “Athleisure is an extremely relevant category with high potential in India where the larger population indulges in casual sports to stay active while being in active wear for casual hangouts,” M.C. Cariappa, President, Sales and Marketing, Jockey India, said during the launch of the campaign ‘Play Or Relax’.

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June 16, 2019