Fashion Labels Take Activewear Market Share, Activewear Brands Now Reside on 5th Ave

Lululemon 200x200

Activewear brands and the retailers who sell their products have had a difficult start to 2018, as sales were “essentially flat between February and April.” NPD Group senior sports industry advisor Matt Powell attributes the struggles to “the proliferation of fashion brands emulating performance wear” (think: Moncler’s Grenoble collection, BIT: MONC); including high fashion labels like Isabel Marant that are now launching activewear lines. It’s not just the athleticwear labels (think: Under Armour – UAA, Columbia – COLM) that are hurting from the industry crossover though, athletic specialty/sporting goods stores are also struggling as “department stores now capture more activewear sales than the true sports channels.” Activewear is the fashion industry’s fastest growing category, expected to grow 6-7% in ’18; compared with 2-3% for the balance of the fashion and footwear industry.

Howie Long-Short: One company that has not been negatively impacted by the trend is Lululemon Athletica. LULU posted “astonishing” Q1 ’18 results, before increasing its full year financial forecast. Net income grew +141% YoY (to $75.2 million) on revenue that rose +25% YoY (to $649.7 million), with e-commerce growth (+62% YoY), new customer acquisition (+28% YoY, 30% of which were men) and a significant rise in gross margin (from 49.4% to 53.1%) highlighting the quarter. Shares popped 16% (to $122.19) following the June 1st report; they’re up 55% YTD and 135% over the last 12 months despite the February resignation of CEO Laurent Potdevin (workplace misconduct) and other public missteps (think: see-through tights). Adidas (ADDYY), Champion (HBI) and Patagonia were also all strong performers within the activewear category during the first quarter.

Fan Marino: While fashion brands are working to take activewear market share, activewear companies are taking up residency on 5thAvenue (NYC) alongside high-fashion retailers. Why? As Powell explains, “to be next to some of the most prestigious names in the industry really elevates the prestige of the athletic brands.” Adidas, Asics (TYO: 7936) and The North Face (VFC) already have stores open on 5th Avenue, Nike (NKE) and Under Armour have signed leases on space and Puma just announced it’ll be opening a 24,000 SF retail store on the street.

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Outdoor Gear & Equipment Sales Declining, Those Buying Are Doing It Online

North Face

Outdoor gear sales are declining, as millennials opt for less expensive, more versatile athletic wear over rugged clothing designed for extreme conditions. The trend remains the same with athletic equipment sales, where versatile products (i.e. mountain bike you can also ride on road) are outselling specialty equipment (i.e. road bikes). The NPD Group reported total outdoor industry sales declined 6% between December ’16 and November ‘17 (to $18.9 billion).

Howie Long-Short: Looking for a positive trend within the outdoor sector? Nearly 1/3 (29%) of all online apparel shoppers bought outdoor gear within the last 12 months, with the average customer spending $178 (+3% YOY). The North Face (VFC, 8% of all buyers), Patagonia (6%) and Columbia (COLM, 3%) are the most popular outdoor retailers within the e-commerce space. Canada Goose (GOOS) and Lands’ End (LE) have also found success online; GOOS consumers increased their spend per purchase 14% YOY, while LE buyers increased their average annual spend 10%. Here’s some more good news for outdoor enthusiasts, Camping World (CWH) is re-opening 69 Gander Outdoors stores. CWH acquired Gander Mountain Company & Overton’s in a May ’17 bankruptcy auction.

Fan Marino: One exception to the trend has been snow industry sales (skis, snowboards, boots, bindings), up 7.8% YOY (to $2 billion) over the first four months of the ski-season. Relatively surprising, considering the historically low snowfall totals across the western U.S.

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