Luxury Sportswear Sector Unaffected by Constraints in Global Consumer Demand

Sunglasses with gold chains on table.

Around the world, consumer spending has slowed down due to high inflation and the cost of living crisis. In the UK, the British Retail Consortium cites that retail sales have been fairly flat, with January 2024 marking a 17-month low for the industry. Yet, as global consumer demand faces constraints, one niche market remains resilient: luxury sportswear. Despite economic downturns and shifts in consumer spending, the luxury sportswear sector continues to thrive, with further growth expected.

According to a report from Fortune Business Insights, the global sportswear market is forecasted to reach $305.67 billion (£242.99 billion) by the end of 2030, indicating a 6.72% CAGR throughout this period. In this article, we'll examine the factors driving continued growth in the global luxury sportswear sector, exploring the implications for consumers, industry stakeholders, and the future of sportswear.

An attainable luxury

In a world where the pursuit of luxury is often associated with exorbitant price tags, luxury sportswear offers a unique proposition. Much like mid-luxury goods, luxury sportswear provides consumers with a tangible taste of opulence without breaking the bank. The athleisure trend has the added bonus of being functional as well as fashionable, playing a unique role in what Forbes terms "wardrobe blending," which involves the mixing and matching of luxury clothing with more versatile, at times casual pieces.

In this way, high-end sportswear brands such as Lululemon and Ernest Leoty serve as an attainable luxury, allowing individuals to experience the lifestyle associated with high-end clothing without the constraints of typical designer fashion brands. The growing polish associated with activewear brands and the expansion into performancewear from longstanding luxury fashion houses has allowed these companies to grow their offerings and reach a wider consumer base.

Sportswear and luxury brands' embrace of tech

Both sportswear and luxury brands have also demonstrated a keen embrace of technology, a move that has garnered significant attention and consumer interest. Luxury eyewear brand Ray-Ban, which put itself on the map thanks to the functional and later fashionable use of its famed Aviator frames, made waves with the introduction of its smart glasses. These innovative eyewear pieces boast features such as hands-free calling, music streaming, and voice assistance integration, as well as partnerships with sports teams like Scuderia Ferrari, appealing to tech-savvy consumers who prioritise both style and functionality.

Under Armour's partnership with Hologenix, meanwhile, has led to greater possibilities for smart clothing, including the use of Celliant to infuse clothing with infrared technology. Celliant enables clothing to respond to the wearer and improve vasodilation and blood circulation, leading to better sports performance.

The adoption of e-commerce has also played a role in the sector's growth, giving consumers unprecedented access to luxury sportswear brands regardless of their geographical location. Online platforms provide a convenient shopping experience, complete with omnichannel experiences and personalised recommendations, further enticing customers to explore and purchase luxury activewear. 

Social media and heightened fashion awareness

Furthermore, the influence of social media cannot be overstated in driving demand for luxury sportswear. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok serve as virtual runways where users showcase their fashion choices, including activewear products like shoes and workout gear. Celebrities with large followings are often tapped by luxury sportswear brands, enabling these brands to reach millions of potential customers. This is exemplified by Lululemon's partnerships with K-pop global icons Taeyang and Jeon Somi for its pop-up campaign in South Korea. This exposure not only elevates brand visibility but also creates aspirational value. As a result, customers are more likely to invest in premium activewear that emulates their favourite celebrities' lifestyles. 

The luxury sportswear sector remains buoyant despite challenges in global consumer demand, thanks to a combination of attainability, technological innovation, and heightened fashion awareness. With consumers continuously seeking out accessible luxuries that enhance their lifestyles, both sportswear and luxury brands that offer sports-related products and accessories are well-positioned to capitalise on this trend, ensuring the sector's enduring relevance in the landscape of fashion and luxury goods.