Sports Clothing Industry

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7. Sports Clothing
While this section evaluates the sports clothing market, it is impossible not to include sportswear items bought to wear for leisure, not just for active participation.

The sportswear ranges cover numerous sports and outdoor activities, but the main ranges were originally designed for the following sports:

•athletics training (tracksuits, shell suits, shorts, warm-up tops)•outdoor sports (jackets, fleeces)•football (tracksuits, replica kits)•racquet sports (polo-style shirts)•skiing, snowboarding and boarding/extreme sports (full range of clothing)•golf (branded knitwear)•rugby (shirts).KEY TRENDS The sportswear boom of the 1980s was originally construed as a passing fad, but, ultimately, it had a profound influence on the general clothing business. The `leisurewear' category that emerged in the late 1980s comprised mainly garments which were originally designed for sports pursuits, even if those buying them used them simply to relax in at home.

Inevitably, the rapid growth period eased off, so that the sports' share of all clothing stabilised at around 10% in the mid-1990s. It then declined to around 9% under pressure from discounting.

Table 7.1: Sports Clothing as a Percentage of the
Total Clothing Market (�m at rsp and %), 1997-2001

% Change


Sports clothing

Total clothing


Sports clothing

as a % of total

clothing market

Note: includes all sportswear bought, whether for participation or as casual apparel
Source: Key Note

Manufacturers have generally adapted to the demand for `sporty leisurewear' as a commercial necessity, although some manufacturers continue to stress the `performance' quality of the clothing that they design for specific sports. Ironically, the performance qualities simply add to the desirability of a brand, particularly when it gains television exposure, as well as adding to the comfort and durability of the clothing.

As sportswear has become more accepted for the informal dress occasion, fashionable and better looking garments have been designed. However, many garments overlap with casual designer products that were not designed with participation in view. (That is, the design is `sporty', but the item of clothing or footwear would not stand up to the rigours of performance.)

There are many passing fads within the market, sometimes — but not always — based on the popularity of the sport concerned. The original athlete's tracksuit of the 1970s gave way to shiny shell suits, which blossomed briefly as fashion items in the late 1980s. At one time or another, cycling shorts, and aerobic and outdoor clothing have all been fashionable (not only acceptable) as leisurewear.

Branding has become very strong in sports clothing, both in the field and on the shops. The major brands are those which started out as footwear specialists but branched into clothing ranges in the 1990s, particularly the large `global' three — Nike, adidas and Reebok. These companies still produce performance apparel for most major sports, but they have also produced ranges which clearly target the leisure and fashion markets as much as the active sports market. From the consumer's point of view, the boundaries between sports brands and designer or leisurewear brands (which may also have some connections with sport) have become much vaguer.

Sports clothing has been strongly influenced by developments in fabric technology. The technology has produced materials and garments which are more durable, stretchable, `softer' to wear, `breathable' or fully waterproof —...
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