The early saying went that, when the pandemic finally ended, people would ditch the stretchy pants and put on more fancy clothes. Sick of ultra-casual clothing, they would instead turn to brands that sell slacks and button-down shirts instead of leggings and sweatshirts.
People Are (Still) Flocking To Lululemon And Athleta
But, as a recent report from Placer.ai shows, traffic at stores that specialize in athleisure is higher than it was before the pandemic. Between 2019 and 2022, visits to Lululemon (LULU) – Get Lululemon Athletica Inc Report rose 17.2% in January, 27% in February and 5.8% in March.
Athleta, the athletic clothing subsidiary of the Gap (GAP) , saw respective increases of 35.5%, 39.2% and 33.2% in the same months. The athleisure brand opened 28 new stores across the US and Canada in 2021.
“As people slowly leave their sweatpants to return to the office and other social obligations, apparel that can both look professional and feel good is in high demand – and Lululemon is reaping the benefits,” the report’s authors write.
While foot traffic cannot be directly extrapolated to sales (and even less so the reasons for a particular phenomenon), the report does show that visits to these types of stores have not been slowing down — in a recent earnings call, Lululemon reported that revenue rose 30% year-over-year to $1.5 billion.
The company also recently committed to growing sales to $12.5 billion by 2026.
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What’s more, people have more and more options when it comes to brands that offer athleisure. Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) – Get Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. Report, which launched three separate athleisure lines since 2015, has also been seeing strong foot traffic.
According to the report, 23.2% of those who shop at Athleta and 24.1% of those who shop at Lululemon also bought items at Dick’s Sporting Goods in the first quarter of 2022.
As a result, different brands have been trying to set themselves apart with different offerings — Lululemon launched a footwear line in March and recently launched memberships for early access to new products and fitness programs.
“Lululemon’s foray into footwear reveals that the brand may be interested in competing more directly with classic sporting goods retailers, such as Dick’s, that have encroached on the Canadian company’s athleisure turf,” reads the report. “Given the overall growth in visits across the three retailers, it seems that there is more than enough athleisure demand to go around.”
Are We Only Going To Wear Sweatpants And Leggings Now?
The reasons for these traffic trends both are and aren’t related to the pandemic. While the shift toward more casual dressing has been taking place across the US over decades, the ability to work from home pushed many to choose clothing made from looser and stretchier materials (often, athletic-style clothing.)
That doesn’t mean that other types of clothing are “dead”— sales of clothing that can be classified as business casual (slacks, shirts, day dresses) also saw a strong boost as people returned to the office — but athleisure and athletic-style clothing is definitely here to stay.
“Before you had your sweatshirt and your sweatpants and you had your button-down shirt and your pencil skirt that you were wearing to the office,” Krista Corrigan, an analyst at retail market intelligence firm Edited, told TheStreet last May. “Those wardrobes were once completely separate in the minds of the consumer and now you’re going to see them blurred more and more.”