In 2023, athleisure and sportswear find themselves firmly in the category of everyday clothing options. Two brands leading the charge are lululemon and Nike, both of which have become fashion trendsetters in recent years. We take a look at these companies’ latest performance as back-to-school heats up.
Between April and June 2023, both lululemon and Nike saw positive year-over-year (YoY) foot traffic growth – even as overall visits to sportswear and sporting goods retailers declined. Visits to both chains are likely getting a boost from the two brands’ investments in experiential retail, which encourages customers a reason to visit the stores rather than just shop online.
Nike has also been working on integrating its digital and physical presence and expanding its portfolio of own-brand stores. And lululemon’s “Power Of Three” retail strategy focuses on product innovation, an improved guest experience, and market expansion.
Lululemon: The Power of Three
YoY visits per venue to lululemon have been consistently elevated in recent months with the company maintaining its upward trend – and the brand’s recent emphasis on menswear is likely contributing to the steady growth. The athleisure leader has always offered men's clothing, but its “Power of Three” marketing strategy, in place since 2019, emphasizes the segment. And while the pandemic slowdown in in-person shopping made it difficult to assess the strategy’s impact on the brand’s brick-and-mortar retail visits, recent data suggests that the “Power of Three” is indeed attracting more men to lululemon stores.
Between Q2 2019 and Q2 2023, the share of male visitors to top lululemon locations across the country grew significantly. For example, lululemon in Leawood, KS saw the share of males in its trade area increase from 36.5% in Q2 2019 to 41.9% in Q2 2023. Similar patterns repeated in other locations, suggesting that lululemon’s increased focus on menswear is bringing a wider customer base into its stores. And with the company’s menswear winning recent endorsements from publications such as GQ and Men’s Health, the current success in the space may be just a hint of what’s to come.
Nike: Democratizing Across Consumer Groups
Like lululemon, Nike has also been broadening its visitor base – which could also explain the company’s ongoing visit growth. Between July 2019 and July 2023 Nike’s customer base’s median household income (HHI) fell to $78.6K/year – still above the nationwide median of $69.5K but slightly lower from than the median HHI of $87.5K/year for Nike visitors in July 2019. This indicates that Nike is shifting slightly from a mostly luxury brand to a more inclusive chain with a wider visitor base.
Similarly, looking at the AGS: Behavior & Attitudes dataset reveals that Nike’s popularity is no longer confined to gym buffs. In 2019, Nike’s potential customers over-indexed for “Joggers” and “Fitness Fans” – 118 and 117, respectively, compared to a nationwide average of 100. But by 2023, Nike visitors only over-indexed by 107 for “Joggers” and 108 for “Fitness Fans,” which means that the brand now appeals to visitors from across the fitness spectrum. It may be that the brand’s recent focus on celebrity and designer collaborations is helping bring a broader range of customers into stores, some of whom may be seeking out more than a jogging or basketball shoe. And with streetwear remaining a staple among the fashion set, Nike can hope for continued foot traffic success into 2024.
Ready, Set, Shop
Both Nike and lululemon are succeeding in the athletic apparel space, bringing innovation and expanded product lines to their shoppers and expanding their reach across new markets.
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