Athleisure shopping for pregnant women is a complicated exercise as it involves searching online discussion forums for recommendations and testing several products. And pointed out in ‘The Next Big Activewear Opportunity’ in the Business of Fashion, though reputed brands have been serving this segment for years, they have begun to recognize its value only now. For instance, even though Nike has been developing its maternity activewear range since 2017, the brand is yet to release its collection in the market.
Nike’s collection includes four products: a nursing sports bra made with sweat-wicking material that includes a panel for a nursing pump; wide-band leggings; a split-hem jacket for moms-to-be to wear throughout their pregnancy; and a scoop style tank top. The collection is likely to encourage Nike’s competitors Lululemon and Adidas to foray into the maternity athleisure segment and launch new collections.
Since the start of this year, the number of maternity activewear styles available online in the US has increased 58 per cent compared to five years ago, says retail market intelligence company Edited. Much of this growth has been fuelled by the growing demand for leggings and nursing bras.
The time and money factor
Despite this, maternity activewear remains a relatively untapped market, says Kayla Marchi, Market Analyst, Edited. Marchi says, maternity styles constitute about half a per cent of the total activewear market in the US with many brands focusing exclusively on maternity activewear. On the other hand, non-maternity fashion retailers like D+K, an Australian activewear brand, as well as Gap and Old Navy also offer maternity activewear.
One reason for fewer players in maternity activewear space is the time and investment needed to design maternity activewear — given the importance of functionality and comfort. Tracy Monford, Founder, Cake, a maternity brand specializing in nursing bras and pregnancy leggings, says research and development cycle for maternity athlesiure is longer and more expensive.
Encourages brand loyalty amongst consumers
Nike had to test 70 materials under extreme stretching conditions and apply data from over 150,000 body scans of women’s bodies throughout pregnancy before finalizing its offerings in maternity athleisure. The brand’s maternity athleisure was first launched at its flagship store Broadway in Manhattan.
Though offering a quality dedicated maternity activewear range is full of challenges it would ultimately help brands strengthen their relationship with consumers. It allows them to reach new customers besides building brand loyalty among existing customers, says Ayako Homma, Fashion Consultant, Euromonitor International.