Run retailers sell shoes, socks and accessories. But whether they realize it or not, they also sell a lifestyle — in their case, in the form of much of the apparel they stock on their shelves.
And in this Back-To-School season after a year of pandemic shutdowns, that apparel lifestyle continues to be all about athleisure, probably one of the most popular apparel and fashion trends in recent years that isn’t going anywhere soon.
Need proof? Okay, according to a recent report by CNN, despite the closures of brick-and-mortar stores last year athleisure brands and retailers continued to thrive. Lululemon’s online sales grew by 157 percent last year, easily making up for the temporary closure of their physical stores.
So, what exactly is athleisure apparel and how can your store be sure to be a part of this ongoing trend as kids get back to school and adults blend remote and in-person work as the weather cools.
Simply put, athleisure apparel refers to athletic clothing that is both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. You know, like the stuff run specialty retailers carry. The key is knowing how to merchandise and sell it.
Its appeal is that it can be worn for active activities as well as casual settings. The fashion trend surrounding it reached its peak during the pandemic, when people stuck at home traded their work and school attire for more comfortable clothing. Brands like lululemon and Athleta caught up on this and started building better digital marketing campaigns to promote their athleisure apparel. Nike, in particular, pushed the boundaries of its digital marketing tactics in a novel way — by letting undergraduate students analyze their data and look for ways to improve their current strategies.
Initiatives like this show how athleisure brands have managed to utilize the next generation of marketers. On Nike’s official site, it notes how its goal is “create new technologies and digital experiences.” This is in-line with how modern marketing is now taught. Professionals with a marketing degree are trained to become multifaceted marketers who can blend strategy with advanced technology. This puts them in an ideal position to tweak and market a brand's athleisure products to ensure that the overall digital marketing strategy is fully optimized.
Digital marketing has been a huge contributor to the rise of athleisure for both brands and retailers of all sizes. With that in mind here are some ways an athleisure brand and run specialty retailer can fine-tune their marketing campaign for the digital platform:
- Showcase both comfort and action
Your content should center around the versatility of athleisure apparel as hybrid clothing. Take photos of your models lounging in your athleisure products and feature videos of them engrossed in their sport or exercise regimen.
If you’re promoting yoga pants, for example, have content centered around people wearing them while doing mundane things around the house, as well as content of the same yoga pants being used while executing impressive yoga poses. The same goes for your running apparel. In short, the appeal of athleisure apparel is its duality, so use that to your advantage.
- Have a strong social media presence
Your customers are on social media platforms — Instagram and Facebook and perhaps dozens of others. So, make sure to be active on those sites. Post your curated content there, share relevant posts and don’t forget to engage with your customers. Encourage them to share photos of themselves in your athleisure lines or share stories about their fitness journey, like Outdoor Voices (OV) does.
OV features a lot of user-generated content as part of its community-building strategy, which so far has been a huge success in making people connect more with the brand.
- Work with influencers
Finally, consider allotting a portion of your budget to influencer marketing, as with Gymshark’s army of influencers. They can be national figures, or local influencers who have a following among your clientele. This is a highly effective way of extending your brand’s reach since influencers usually have a loyal fanbase.
Of course, you’ll need to find the right influencer for your business. Make sure their branding is relevant to yours and that they fit your designated budget, among other considerations. Finding the right influencer to showcase your brand will paint your product and, subsequently your business, in a positive light.
Though pandemic restrictions are slowly easing up, there’s still plenty of reason to promote athleisure apparel. For one, it’s made for both comfort and action. And with plenty of people excited to get out and exercise – to run, walk or hike – there’s more reason to offer consumers the dual benefits of athleisure apparel.