Retailing activewear in the fitness sector: everything you wanted to know

Charlotte James is the Marketing Manager for ELLESPORT, fashion forward activewear brand. Charlotte is a fashion marketing professional with experience working on brands including Lipsy, Debenhams and House of Fraser. She has been instrumental in developing the ecommerce side of ELLESPORT – one of the first brands to combine fitness with fashion when it launched in 2009 – and in generating 114% sales growth on their latest collection, Fortitude, since its release in September this year.

We talked to Charlotte about:

  • Growth in the activewear market and the opportunities this presents for operators
  • How to ensure success when retailing activewear
  • Choosing the right brands to partner with


How has the activewear market changed over the last few years?

There has been a huge boom in athleisurewear, consumers are wearing their fitness kit all day, from gym to high street and even the office. We’ve seen significant growth in our black jacket and legging lines because they are fashion led but also a staple you can wear with anything. Today’s consumer wants activewear with personality and we’re seeing rapid growth in sales of printed legging and capris. It’s not just women either, the men’s activewear market is on the up as men start to expect the same level of choice and fashion from their fitness kit.

There has been a huge boom in athleisurewear


What opportunities does this growth present for facility operators and boutique fitness studios? Should every gym be retailing activewear?

rsz_es2973_es2974_058Retailing presents a lucrative opportunity for secondary spend but it’s not for every gym and should be carefully thought out dependent on the clientele. Top sellers in a gym environment tend to be Items with added support and black pieces which have detailing to flatter body shape. Black and pink continue to be the most popular colourways for women. In addition to retail, activewear brands make great partners for in-club events as they enable operators to align with on-trend brands and get their teams kitted out in the latest clothing. At ELLESPORT, we’ve run events where we preview a new collection with a fitness partner. Members receive real added value as they are among the first to see the new lines as well as receiving discounts on products.


How can an operator ensure success with retailing activewear?

To ensure success you need a dedicated retail area with lifestyle elements. Mannequins are great for showing off key items and allowing members to touch and feel so they can appreciate the quality of a garment. They can’t do that if everything is hidden behind reception! If you’re stocking a small collection I would recommend choosing products that can be easily mixed and matched. No one wants to feel they will be in the gym wearing an identical outfit to the person next to them. It’s also a good tactic to stock a range of lower priced accessories meaning that everyone can access the brand – and begin to love it – regardless of budget. Finally, consider retail as a part of your total offering including info and promotions in all your regular marketing and communication.


How should a retailer choose the right brand(s) to retail / partner with?

rsz_es2909_es2972_es2974_011Start with some customer research; do your members want traditional or fashion forward activewear? Are they looking for basics or luxe items? Perhaps they would prefer sports specific clothing? Next consider the brand personality alongside your own brand – is it a good fit? Once you’ve decided on a brand, take a closer look at the different lines available, our leisure line would be more suited to a yoga studio while our performance line offers a better fit for a boutique gym, for example.


What are the benefits to an operator of having your PT as activewear brand ambassador? What’s the best way to make these links?

Activewear brands are always looking for their next ambassador to help showcase and sell more items. For a gym to have one of their PTs or instructors selected provides a certain kudos. The trainer becomes part of the ELLESPORT family, aligning them – and their gym – with a global fashion led brand. It provides additional credibility for the instructor and their employer and also ensures they always look great! We currently have 80 ambassadors and when they tag us in posts from a gym or studio we’ll always share, which provides great reach for the fitness facility.

Activewear brands are always looking for their next ambassador


Posted in Fitness Fashion, Interviews, Most Popular Interviews, The Fitness Network.