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Women's fitness | Market growing | Fitness clothing and footwear
November 2014

Women’s fitness

market growing

More fitness brands developing and introducing women-specific product is a trend that extends beyond apparel and footwear, reports RHIANAH FREDERICKS

The growing demand from South African women is driving the production of fitness clothing and footwear, say suppliers. They also find that women are buying their products mainly to use for fitness related purposes, not merely as casual wear.

“Product is developed to meet the needs of the ever changing and dynamic women’s consumer market,” says Katharine Tromp from New Balance SA.

“The entire women’s fitness market has opened up as there is a focus on wellness, as well as a shift to strong being the new thin, says Barbara Cole from Asics SA.

She finds that women want to look good while they are exercising and the apparel they wear while doing so, is an extension of fashion into fitness.

A large portion of women are constantly concerned with their fitness, health and physical appearance, says Gugu Ntuli from adidas. They also want to look good when training, hence they purchase fitness specific product as it has the benefits they need to excel in their chosen fitness regime.

There is a lot more pressure on women to be fit and healthy, which created more demand from consumers, which has resulted in a more competitive brand offering, says Ntuli.

“Looking the part goes hand in hand with wearing branded products.” She would suggest that there’s a 70/30 split between products being used for exercise and products being used for every day. “In the past few seasons, we have seen a big trend in specific fitness pieces being used for everyday use, such as the long performance tights, oversized tees and lifestyle looking fitness footwear,” she says.

Although there has always been an interest in producing ladies fitness gear, the demand for it has grown over the past few years due to the increase in participation in fitness and running, explains James Mullen from Puma.

The growth of the women’s fitness market presents a great opportunity for fit- ness specific brands to try and grow revenues within this emerging segment, says Paul Copson from Brand Identity, local distribu- tor of performance footwear Mizuno and compression brand Skins.

Popular training clothing

Women currently want training clothing such as long graphic tights, all over printed loose tees, tees with burnout prints, loose styled vests that can be used for layering with a sports crop top, says Ntuli. They also want lightweight, flexible footwear that can be worn both in the gym, or casually, she says.

“A great pair of black capris is always in demand,” says Cole, who has also identified a trend toward printed and graphic tights and capris.

Bra tops and highly flexible and lightweight trainers are also in demand, says Mullen.

New Balance has seen great interest in the full matching top to toe story of a range, including footwear, says Tromp.

“Brands are developing more and more exciting women specific product and has fashion inspirations to help drive more women to purchase!” adds Copson.

“I would say that technical performance apparel is brand driven, and will grow at a slower rate than that of entry level fashion fitness apparel, which is being driven by retailers who traditionally were fashion retailers, not core sports brands,” says Cole.

Now that these retailers have expanded into the fashion fitness game, consumers are realizing that they have more choice and she thinks this will result in a positive spin off for core sports brands, as consumers perhaps demand more from their apparel when it comes to performance and technology, where there is credibility from the sports brands, she explains.

Equipment grow

Equipment suppliers have also seen growth in the demand for women’s products.

“I think that for the past twenty years there have been a big demand for fitness equipment, and yes, it keeps growing all the time,” says Daniella Smoller from Thera-Med, who experienced a big demand from women for Pilates equipment like the Magic Circle, fitness balls, small and soft overballs for strength, rubber fitbands, etc.

The demand from women for personal training equipment like small dumbbells, gym balls, aerobic mats, steps and boxing equipment has been growing over the last two years, agrees Savan Patel of IG Hoosen.

Suunto has also experienced this increase in demand from women and 40% of their fitness watch buyers are female, says Amy Whittam of local distributor Ultimo.

The growing demand from women has also extended into the apps market, says Chantal Grobler from TomTom. We see an overall growth in sports participation with tools, being smartphones, sports watches, etc.” There has especially been a growing demand for heart rate monitors and GPS watches, she adds.

“Traditionally, there is an increase in equipment demand a few months before summer, as everyone gets beach ready or tries to shed a few unwanted pounds,” says Patrick Franck from WET Sports. “The demand for the smaller sizes in our gym gloves, the aerobic bands in light, medium and heavy resistances, neoprene soft touch kettle bells and lighter weights is definitely on the increase,” says Franck. This would be an indication of interest from women.

Yoga mats and gym balls are also products that have been in demand by women, says Kevin De Wet from De Wet Sports. Other items that have grown substantially over the last three years include resistance bands, lighter dumbbells and ankle weights.

“Now that fit is the new skinny it comes as no surprise that women are motivated to take on activities that were previously categorized as men’s sports,” explains Lauren McCleland from Orbit Sports. She believes this has contributed to the increase in demand for women’s fitness training equipment.

The demand for functional training equipment such as weighted sandbags, Swiss balls, skipping ropes and medicine balls have also increased at Orbit Sports, says McCleland. She has also seen an increase in sales of their MMA boxing gloves.

Functional fitness trend

With the large number of women doing CrossFit, or functional training, there is a huge potential for retailers, because there is a fast, growing market, says Paris Philippou, general manager of Rebel Elite Fitness.

“CrossFitters represent a high LSM and don’t mind paying R1 000 for a pair of shorts marketed at CrossFitters, or R2 000 for a pair of Olympic Weightlifting shoes. You don’t need much for functional fitness, but CrossFitters want to have it all: wrist wraps, hand protection gear, shoes, shorts, kinesiology tape, etc. They want to look the part.”

Purchases of functional fitness equipment like skipping ropes, squat stands, a bar, weights for the home market is growing, as there is a huge growth in a home set-up. The competitive guy or woman wants to practice at home to go to the next level or beat his friend will put up a bar or squat plate in the garage, he explains.

“There is also a market for recovery products, like foam rollers, sport tapes, muscle balm, etc.,” he adds.

CrossFit has grown by more than 300%, with only 30 boxes in 2013 to approximately 130 countrywide boxes this year. The first CrossFit regionals was held in a school hall, but now there are thousands that come to participate and watch.

Some boxes have more women members than men, says Philippou. There are some boxes that only cater for women. Women like the group or boot camp type of activities they offer, he says.

Each box has its own character and several can be located in one area. It is just a matter of finding the one you like.

CrossFit is a brand name that may only be used by accredited boxes and coaches, but this type of functional fitness training is also offered by many personal trainers who do not wish to be accredited.

As more people want to look good and feel good, functional fitness is growing rapidly, says Philippou.

Some of the reasons for this growth are the benefits that members get from attending functional fitness gyms and CrossFit boxes, like one coach per 10-15 participants who ensure that you don’t injure yourself. The smaller boxes ensure much more personal attention from trainers than in a regular gym and workouts that are different every day leave no chance for boredom and monotony. “Functional fitness has benefits for all sports,” he adds.

Popular activities

While most suppliers agree that functional fitness and boot camp activities are a growing trend among women, they also noticed that women are taking up other, traditional male activities like MMA.

“There is also an increase in the number of women who now workout in the weight section at the gym,” says McCleland.

Boxing as well as karate, martial arts, etc. “as self-defence training is a must nowadays for all women,” says Patel. Although he also believes there are now more women participating in more female-dominated activities like yoga and aerobics because they want to stay and look fit.

He has also seen growing interest in activities such as Pilates, says De Wet.

Smoller attributes the growing interest in Pilates to the fact that people have become more aware of the need of having strong core muscle, which are developed by Pilates.

Trail running and mountain biking are other activities that have also become more popular in the female market, says Whittam.

“In my opinion women are looking at more of a crossover of different exercise disciplines,” says Franck. “I guess our modern lifestyles and commitments makes it difficult to commit to the same routine on the same evening each week so women are getting their fitness fix wherever they can,” he explains.

Designed for women

Women tend to be more fashion conscious than men and this influences the way in which their apparel, footwear and electronic products are designed, say suppliers.

The apparel and fitness markets have been moving towards each other for the last couple of years, influencing the way consumers exercise, says Grobler. There is a more fashion conscious approach to working out and in this way women appear to be more sensitive.

She would also like to emphasise the fact that designing for a female target-group is more than just shrink it and pink it.

“I think colour is perhaps one of the key aspects when it comes to women making purchasing decisions, so seasonal colours that are on trend are key to the ranges,” says Cole. Items should be designed around their main function. “Thought must go into how the item needs to perform when in motion. Fabrics will also play a major role in the make-up of the garments,” she says.

Women tend to want packages that tie up, so there will be plenty of items that one can cross merchandise from all tiers, to tie up to one another, top to bottom. “For instance we have seen a trend of layering coming through in fitness apparel which has been a spin off from ready to wear fashion trends.”

We look at specific fashion colour trends and designs when looking for inspiration in our Skins women’s fitness compression wear and design, says Copson. Their products also have specific women fits and anatomical designs.

“There are various trends in the women’s fitness world, women want on-trend prints, fabrications, feminine silhouettes and colour palets that link to what is happening in the fashion industry,” says Ntuli.

Any product that is produced has a purpose and technical features to assist women with achieving their fitness goals, says Tromp. But because they are aware that aesthetics play a major role in the purchase decision, they incorporate intentional aesthetic design into product. “All panels, placement of aesthetically pleasing lines and materials will service that fashion function, but will also be technically sound,” she says.

Although the fact that women are more fashion conscious than men plays a part in the way product is designed, says Mullen. “From a Puma perspective we make sure that we blend fashion and performance. We make product that not only looks good, but also functions and performs at the highest level.”

Retailers looking to source stock for their customers looking for training clothing, shoes and equipment have much to choose from.

Adidas training gear

Adidas offers a wide range of ladies training tights, tees, shoes, etc, some with climalite technology, which moves sweat away from the wearer’s body to help keep them cool.

The clima essentials strap tank has a feminine fit and an inner bra shelf, while the clima training graphic tank offers a slim fit with a racer-back design. Their techfit all over print 3-inch boy shorts offers medium compression that supports muscles during training.

The techfit tank and bra, as well as the supernova racer bra, feature climacool technology, which improves ventilation while training. The techfit tank has UPF 50+ UV protection and flat seams that reduce friction.

The techfit bra also offers shock-absorbing support. The support and reflective detailing on the supernova racer bra makes it ideal for training.

The adipure range of shoes are lightweight and breathable. The 360.2 model offers barefoot flexibility while the 360 celebration graphics model has a soft graphic printed upper that offers support in key areas. Its grooved outsoles allow a flexible fit. The adipure 360 control shoes have the barefoot-like benefits of a minimal and flexible outsole while its welded upper gives support for fast and controlled movement.

The Arianna shoes support and comfort feet. Its lightweight mesh uppers keep feet cool while EVA midsoles and heels provide cushioning.

The adidas micoach smart run watch features a strapless continuous heart rate monitor, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 as well as a colour touch screen.

Medalist fitness

De Wet Sports offers the Medalist range fitness equipment that covers exercise, aerobic and gym categories.

The exercise equipment range includes PVC, braided and leather skip ropes with wooden, foam, etc. handles. They also offer foam and plastic hand grips, double exercise wheels, power twisters, chest expanders, waist trimmers, twist boards and resistance bands.

Their yoga equipment, like the standard and deluxe mats, are durable and lightweight.

The Pilates ring is a fibreglass ring covered with soft foam that is designed to improve muscle tone in the inner and outer thighs, arms and chest.

The Deluxe Foam Roller features durable closed cell EVA foam and is used for stretching and flexibility.

Their Pilates set includes a gym ball with a pump, the deluxe printed yoga mat and a Pilates ring.

Their aerobic equipment range includes an Aerobic Step with a non-slip surface, three adjustable heights, which supports up to 250kg.

The Balance Dome in the gym ball range helps strengthen core muscles and features integrated resistance bands.

Other products in the range include dumbbells, neoprene ankle wrist weights, barbell sets (30 and 50kg), etc.

New Balance apparel

The New Balance fitness apparel range, which includes jackets, racer back tank tops and capri’s, feature their NB Dry technology. In addition, NB Fresh technology is also available in the ATC and BK Achieve Knee Capri and BGR Achieve Jacket.

The Heather performance French terry Achieve Jacket has a cosy extended collar and shimmer front zipper, while the Achieve Knee Capri has a wide waistband with tummy control and an internal pocket. The black lycra material reduces shine.

Their Get Back Racerback feature sublimated prints and an internal shelf bra, while the Vitalize Layer Tank feature an embossed graphic pattern.

Orbit Sports gym equipment

Orbit Sports offers the EVA Gym Roller, a locally manufactured product designed to help improve posture, core stability, balance, flexibility and strength. “Professional athletes take advantage of this product to improve their balance, to work their core and to strengthen various muscle groups,” says Lauren McCleland from Orbit Sports.

It is manufactured with a strong PVC cylinder that is encased in a soft EVA foam. The PVC cylinder provides a strong foundation to withstand static and dynamic load forces. “This means that the roller will not break-in like standard foam rollers and allows the user to perform standing exercises that regular foam rollers cannot support,” says McCleland. It can be used for exercise or under the guidance of a physiotherapist to recover and rehabilitate injuries, she says. Its soft EVA cushioning reduces impact and provides comfort when using it for massage and stretch purposes.

This product is available in 330mm and 500mm lengths with a standard diameter of 130mm.” The nifty size of the 330mm roller allows it to be easily transported and stored. It is an affordable, lightweight and versatile product that is ideal for a home workout or to be taken to your favourite class,” says McCleland.

Puma gym range

Puma’s fitness range includes the Gym ¾ tight, Bra Top and Loose Top that feature coolCELL technology, which draws sweat away from the body. They also have anatomically placed airflow features that help keep the wearer cool and dry during exercise.

The Gym Loose Top offers freedom of movement, an exposed back design and is made of 85% polyester and 15% elastane.

The Gym ¾ tight features flatlock seams that reduces skin irritation and a diamond gusset that reduces friction to increase comfort. It has a bio-based wicking finish, which is also available in their Gym Bra Top and Studio Yogi Tee. The Gym Bra Top offers the support needed during full force workouts, uses lycra sport yarns and offers recovery power, fit and freedom of movement.

The Studio Yogi Tee’s design offers freedom of movement and has a sporty graphic burn-out for added ventilation. It uses dryCELL technology that draws sweat away from the skin, keeping the wearer dry and comfortable.

Puma’s Gym Workout Bag combines technical features and feminine shape. It offers room for the post-workout wardrobe change and is made from sustainable ripstop fabric with mesh panelling. It offers two carry options and has a side compartment to keep shoes separated from gear.

Skins training

Brand-ID distributes the Skins A400 range of tights and shorts that offer designs based on 3D body scan research. These garments use five different fabrics and have Memory MX panels in the waistband, and other areas, to allow more movement, without losing any compression benefits.

PU bonded hems make them more comfortable while 400 key fitting points improve fit.

The Skins A200 range of shorts, tights and tops feature their Engineered Gradient Compression that offers circulatory benefits, SKINmuscle+, which gives stability and support to muscles during activity, and SKINfit.

The items in this range use three technical fabrics, have a main body made from Skins warp knit fabric and use four needle flat lock stitching that provides durability and comfort.

Other technologies, such as SKINdry, helps with moisture management, SKINtemp improves temperature optimisation and SKINUVblock offers 50+ UV protection in non-mesh areas.

Suunto bluetooth

Suunto has introduced their first Bluetooth compatible product family, consisting of the Movescount App, Ambit3 Peak and Sport GPS watches, as well as the Smart Sensor for heart rate monitoring. The brand is locally distributed by Ultimo.

The Ambit3 Peak and Sport GPS watches combine functionality for both outdoor adventures and performance training. It allows the user to track his activity and upload exercises, change watch settings and get notifications on the Suunto Movescount app and share the information wirelessly.

The Ambit3 Peak offers functions like route navigation, barometric information, 3D compass, etc. It has a tough design with a glass fiber reinforced casing and a stainless steel bezel that allows it to take a beating in any conditions. The Sapphire edition has an additional sapphire crystal glass for increased durability.

The GPS in the Ambit3 Sport GPS watch provides accurate pace, route navigation and tracking, while the heart rate monitor lets the wearer train within their ideal zone.

It also offers daily activity monitoring for a more complete estimation of total recovery time. The Ambit3 Sport can also record the user’s heart rate while swimming. The heart rate belt has a Suunto Smart Sensor that can accurately track and store the heart rate data during swimming, and once out of the water, transfer it to the Ambit3 Sport or Movescount app.The Smart Sensor uses Movesense technology and can be attached to the heart rate belt or other compatible sports apparel.

TomTom runner

TomTom’s Runner Cardio range of GPS sport watches have an integrated heart rate monitor with five intensity zones, that can be used without a strap. Some of their heart rate and GPS watches have feminine colours and designs. “Our Ambit 2S and Ambit 3 watches were designed in stylish white editions and comes with a soft, elastic silicone strap for improved comfort and fit for female athletes,” says Tanya Grobler.

Their multi-sport range come with a dedicated bike mount. It includes the Multi-Sport Cardio GPS watch, which has a built-in heart rate monitor and cadence/speed/altitude sensors that helps the wearer measure pedal strokes, speed, distance, etc. in real time. It also includes the Multi-Sport Cardio GPS watch, as well as the Multi-Sport GPS watch with a heart rate monitor accessory strap.

W.E.T Sports fitness

W.E.T Sports offers a range of quality gym gloves in sizes small through to extra-large in three variations. The 2423 glove is the perfect entry level glove as it offers support and a comfortable fit, says Andrew Wentzel from W.E.T Sports. The 2418 deluxe gym glove offers more support and a superior finish, while the 2411 pro leather glove offers superior comfort and fitting for someone looking for a quality glove, he adds.

Baojye offers aerobic bands in light (pink), medium (purple) and heavy (blue) options and come in a 15cm width and 1.2cm length. The range also includes neoprene kettle bells in 2, 3, 4 and 5kg options. “Kettle bells are great for developing your core muscles and adding variety to your standard workout. This neoprene variety is also great for indoor use and will not scuff or damage your floor,” says Wentzel.

LP Support bands, 15cm wide and 1.5m long, come in light (red), medium (green) and heavy (blue) options. Both the LP and Baojye ranges can be used for recovery and stretching exercises.




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