Study: Lululemon To Pass Nike In Women's Activewear


Image above from latest Lululemon campaign.


Changes in the way Americans work out -- or at least get dressed to do so -- will lead to major brand upheavals in the year ahead, according to NPD Group’s new forecast.

Among them? Nike, Jordan and Adidas will all lag in footwear sales.  Lululemon will surpass Nike to become the No. 1 brand for women’s activewear. Direct-to-consumer initiatives will continue, as new ecommerce strength gives brands the courage to ditch underperforming retailers.

And for the first time in nine years, performance looks will infiltrate our athleisure aesthetic, with brands like Puma and ON stepping further into the spotlight.

“Consumers will remain committed to healthy living, combined with some degree of social distancing,” writes Matt Powell, NPD’s vice president, senior industry advisor, sports. “This is good news for the sports industry, but not every category will benefit.”



Powell predicts the absence of last year’s stimulus money will weigh on sales. And as the industry overcompensates for shortages due to supply-chain struggles, brands will be forced to offer more discounts and promotions, cutting into profits.

He expects to see athleisure looks, now almost a uniform for many people, shift toward more athleticism. And that performance vibe -- think high-end running shoes and track suits -- will show up more as streetwear.

He thinks the biggest names in the industry will continue to fall behind in women’s activewear products, outpaced by retailers’ store brands and the Lululemon juggernaut. "Lululemon will pass Nike as the top women’s activewear brand in the U.S.”

Overall, he predicts activewear sales will grow in the mid-single digits, with athletic footwear -- already off to a slow start -- rising in the low single digits.

But he sees bright spots, too. While golf and tennis sales are likely to slow compared to their recent gains, he believes they’ll still continue to top pre-pandemic levels.

And he sees nothing but blue sky for the outdoor industry. “Consumers feel safe outdoors,” he says. “Concern for the planet will drive more people towards outdoor activities. 'Backyard living’ will remain an important trend.”

Some industry observers are a bit less confident. Seth Basham, who follows sporting brands for Wedbush Securities, writes that he is more conservative than NPD, expecting “flattish” growth in 2022.

“This category has re-baselined with sustained increased participation,” he writes. He expects modest declines in big-ticket purchases, including bicycles, home fitness machines and kayaks. But those will dips will be “more than offset by growth in active apparel and athletic footwear.”

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