Only a quarter of female active wear market loyal to specific brands

Only a quarter of female active wear consumers are loyal to specific brands, with those under 35 years old more likely to be loyal than older women, according to new research commissioned by the Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA).

The national survey of over a thousand female active wear consumers shows that 32 per cent of women aged 16-24 rate themselves as loyal to specific active wear brands, compared to women aged 25-34 at 37 per cent; women aged between 35-49 at 25 per cent; and only 13 per cent women over 50 years old rating themselves as loyal to specific brands.

The survey is Stage 4 of the Active Wear: Forecasting future trends in female consumer behaviour research project, undertaken by Victoria University and market research company 10 THOUSAND FEET. It provides valuable quantitative research that will allow brands, marketers and retailers to understand, in-depth, the purchase decision-making habits of female consumers of active wear.

Executive Director of ASGA, Shannon Walker, said “The research shows that factors other than brand loyalty are the primary drivers for active wear purchases for the majority of female consumers.”

The research identifies seven market segments, which cross over demographics but display a remarkable consistency when it comes to how they feel about exercise; what product features they are looking for in active wear; the importance of appearance when selecting products and how they prefer to be communicated with by brands and retailers.

While there was a very small correlation between the frequency of exercise and the number of active wear items purchased, by far the bigger determining factor was how a woman feels about exercise.

The Sports Passionate segment (10 per cent of the market) exercise because they love it, are more loyal to specific brands than the average consumer and purchase active wear more frequently each year than any other segments – 5.4 times a year. This is the relatively small group of women targeted by most active wear brands.

The Instant Gratifiers, on the other hand, are the largest segment at 24 percent. They don’t like exercise – they only do it because they feel they have to – and only purchase active wear 2.7 times a year. They have little loyalty to specific brands and tend to prefer generic brands over performance brands.

The other segments are:

  • Healthy Maintainers (19 per cent)
  • Healthy Stylists (18 per cent)
  • Self Driven (18 per cent)
  • Socially Driven (7 per cent)
  • Inactive (4 per cent)

In general, active wear is primarily used for exercise (74 per cent) and playing sport (54 per cent), wearing active wear around the home (20 per cent) and for running errands (13 per cent).

Female consumers prefer brands that focus on function and performance (40 per cent), flatter their body shape (28 per cent) and that take a healthy lifestyle approach (17 per cent).

Almost half (49 per cent) of all women don’t engage with active wear brands on social media at all. Of those that do, Facebook and Instagram are the most popular. Unsurprisingly, social media engagement is more prevalent with younger consumers than older consumers.

Women primarily purchase active wear exclusively in physical retail outlets (65 per cent), or a combination of online and in retail stores (30 per cent). Only 5 per cent of female consumers purchase active wear exclusively online.

Lead researcher for the project, Associate Professor Clare Hanlon from Victoria University, said “Active wear brands and retailers must think about both function and fashion in their designs, and how they market to each of the seven segments.”

Mr Walker said “This survey reveals a wealth of knowledge to active wear brands and retailers, who can use the findings to quantify the behaviour and purchasing decisions of their female customers.”

The final stage of the project, due in March, will integrate the previous four stages, including a literature review, consumer focus groups, an industry forecasting study and the national survey.

All stages are available for purchase by contacting ASGA on or 03 9320 2655.

The Australian Sporting Goods Association was formed in 1981 as the industry association representing a broad spectrum of sporting goods and active lifestyle industry participants, including manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers.

ASGA is a leading industry voice on issues impacting the health, trade, regulation and taxation of the sporting and active lifestyle industries. ASGA aims to foster market growth, provide services and advocate for increased participation in sport and physical activity.