Fashion and sport combine to appeal to the mass market

Posted by in Andreas Huber, Fashion, Sporting Goods

Andreas Huber, SRi’s head of sporting goods & fashion, explains how the fashion industry is looking to increase its slice of the lucrative sporting goods market, but needs the talented workforce to do so.

shutterstock_256222564-smallAt last estimate, the market value of the sporting goods industry stood at around $150 billion p.a., with Nike ($32 billion) and Adidas ($19 billion) by far the largest players. A massive amount of their revenue continues to come from cutting-edge sporting goods technology and insight. However, the focus for those big sporting brands, more than ever, is the emotional attachment they can garner with their customers – and that comes from design and perception.

Sporting goods must, of course, be functional. Boots must help football players kick a ball, cycling glasses mustn’t fall off ears when they become sweaty. When it comes to those functional elements, those huge companies with the R&D capabilities – Nike, Adidas – will, by and large, corner the market.

However, modern sporting consumers have another concern: looking stylish. Firstly, their clothes should fit well, feel comfortable and also have an attractive design. Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly, they want to wear sportswear across many more aspects of their daily life, such as going to the shops, the gym or to restaurants.

This is the area where fashion brands have seen a massive opportunity for growth. While Nike and Adidas have long found their niche in fashion – although success for those sporting behemoths has been cyclical, rather than constant – it’s now fashion brands who are making more of a move to reconcile sporting functionality and fashionable made-to-fit clothes.

shutterstock_144293953-smallIn recent years, the likes of Giorgio Armani have had huge success in the lifestyle area. In 2010, they launched EA7, a high-end brand designed primarily for style but also geared towards sporting use.

Since supplying the casual attire for Italy’s Olympic team at London 2012, EA7 has grown at a healthy rate in the high-end sportswear and leisurewear market and now holds its own in the space alongside the likes of Peak Performance and Bogner. Canada Goose are a fine example of a brand that went the other way, developing from their core outdoor exhibition range to delivering a high-end fashion brand.

Others, such as H&M, have created huge interest with their clothing deals, such as when they became the official supplier for the Sweden Olympic Team in Rio. They have also recently launched sporting goods lines within their stores, which was a real shake-up in the market for the big players such as Adidas and Nike.

There is now more crossover than ever in the workforces between sporting goods and fashion, with talent constantly moving between the two in both directions. There are clear similarities in the brand-building approach across the two industries, and those who move between the two have a lot to offer their destination.

shutterstock_276998942-smallIt doesn’t just stop at the design stage, either. Relating styles and presenting the customer story falls to knowledgeable salespeople and, increasingly, an able digital workforce. The digital space is an area where, across the board, businesses are looking to gain a foothold and enable richer connections to their customers. Whether it’s promoting the latest range on social media or creating a seamless customer experience on an e-commerce platform, executed well, digital expertise increases brand loyalty, perception and, most importantly, the bottom line.

As long as consumers continue to be concerned about their fitness and their style there will always be a close, symbiotic relationship between sporting goods and fashion brands. It’s up to businesses on both sides to take a look over the fence and find the talent that can really add value to their own. It certainly exists and there are huge opportunities for those who recognise it.

Andreas Huber is head of sporting goods & fashion at SRi, focussing on expanding SRi’s presence in the German and Austrian markets in the sector of sporting goods, fashion and lifestyle. He works closely with brands in this sector to deliver high-quality executive search and business consultancy.

To arrange a confidential discussion with Andreas, please contact him at ahuber@sriexecutive.com.