Just as millions adapted to work from home, so, too, have many of those displaced office workers adjusted to working out at home.
After gyms, boutique fitness classes, yoga studios, athletic clubs and scores of other cardiovascular-enhancing activities were forced to close due to the COVID-19 crisis several months ago, exercise enthusiasts were left to their own devices. While walking, biking and running have seen surges in participation, at-home exercise in all its many forms has gained popularity.
Last year the gym industry’s revenues increased to $35 billion — up from $32.3 billion in 2018, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. What started as a pause this year developed into a five-month shutdown for Planet Fitness, Equinox, SoulCycle and other gyms. While many of those outposts in the U.S. have reopened, some major markets are just starting to welcome back members. Concerns about spikes in the coronavirus will prompt some people to keep exercising via Instagram, working out at home or outdoors in more socially distanced settings.
Given how entrenched some WFHers are about sporting the ultra comfortable ath-leisure for workwear and athletic wear, the activewear category and at-home equipment manufacturers seem to be on a sound footing.
Nike’s former women’s designer Kristin Hildebrand said of the change in consumers’ choices, “You’re buying for the sake of longevity. The idea of prints, patterns and personal style are not as important as longevity, comfort and functionality. If you’re working out at home, it’s less personal. There is less dressing to impress someone — unless you’re being recorded. Generally speaking, that’s less the case.”
In April, she sold Wone, the direct-to-consumer, limited-run activewear company, to Synergy SHC for an undisclosed sum. Designed to last and be interchangeable, the collection was more compact than most brands. Hildebrand is now in talks with a few other brands, declining to say which ones.
Peloton Interactive and Nautilus have also seen sales surge as more consumers are opting to exercise at home. Nautilus, for example, reported revenues of $114.19 million for its most recent quarterly results, compared to analysts’ expectations of $69.15 million.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has also seen an upswing. Sales for the second quarter ended Aug. 1 increased 20.1 percent to about $2.71 billion. Addressing the most recent results last month, chairman and chief executive officer Edward Stack cited such factors as the greater shift toward athletic and active lifestyle product with people spending more time working and exercising at home. “The majority of our assortment is set squarely at the center of these trends, and while mindful of the uncertainty in the current environment, we are in a great lane right now,” he said.
Having recently launched activewear and casual wear, Nicole Miller was undeterred by the crowded field. “People are always going to work out. Even if they’re just going to do yoga in front of their TV, they’re going to put their yoga outfit on,” the designer said.
To accommodate a variety of fitness enthusiasts, Miller has created updated more contemporary silhouettes such as a black-and-white tie-dye group. Her aim is that the activewear and casual clothes will easily cross over for other days and occasions. Looking ahead, the designer said, “I just don’t know what’s going to happen when winter comes. A lot of people will still be afraid to go to an indoor restaurant or an indoor gym.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic led to health club closures in most of its markets, Equinox quickly pivoted and created an abundance of new digital strategies with at-home classes and workout options. The nationwide operation also “quickly built a site to service our members’ workout-from-home needs, and then started layering fashion,” said vice president Anne Walters. In addition, a digital look book was created to send to all of Equinox’s members that allowed for personal styling sessions, among other features. Alo, Lululemon, Ultracor and Electric & Rose have been key labels.
Equinox has seen shoppers gravitating to more fashionable styles and colors, she said. Pink, for example, has been “huge” in a variety of shades and men have been gravitating toward nontraditional colors and prints too. Online sales for men’s have “exploded,” with men’s accounting for nearly 40 percent of total sales, Walters said.
Casualwear has also been generating significant sales. “It’s a movement — not a moment. I don’t know when we’re going to go back to a place where I’m going to need to put on my designer dresses anymore,” Walters said. “This is a shift in our culture. It will be interesting to see how it evolves. But the demand is definitely not subsiding. If anything, it’s increasing as we see many people continuing to work from home through the end of this year and into next year.”
While Equinox has reopened many of its clubs, the company is gearing up to reopen its many New York outposts on Sept. 2. Walters said, “We’re anticipating people to come back, but there’s still a huge digital opportunity on all sides of our business.”