Are leggings on their last legs?
Not exactly, but they might be past their prime.
The runaway athleisure train — including fashion and sports sneakers, leggings and tights — that gripped the apparel industry over the past four years is slowing down as consumers show a growing preference for jeans and boots.
“The athleisure business is losing some steam and finally something else is replacing that growth,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser at the NPD Group, which tracks retail sales data.
Success can breed overexposure, as now a wide variety of retailers that were not in the sports business began offering stretchy and sporty apparel.
“They diluted the real stuff,” said Matt Powell, NPD’s sports industry adviser. “The market has gotten very crowded.”
Denim’s rising popularity is having a trickle-down effect, helping to fuel an 8 percent increase in apparel sales this holiday season — the biggest jump since 2010, according to Mastercard.
Sales of sneakers, sporty and fashion-focused alike, grew by a healthy 12 percent year to date through November, to $9.4 billion, but that was a third less than their growth rate over the same period last year, NPD data show.
Meanwhile, sales of fashion boots increased by 9 percent from September to November this year compared with a 7 percent decline over the same period last year, according to NPD.
“Any time there are [fashion trend] changes, it drives changes throughout the whole closet,” Chad Kessler, global brand president of American Eagle Outfitters, told The Post.
Customers also are choosing to buy shorter sweaters to pair with their jeans and boots instead of the longer tops that typically go with leggings.
American Eagle recently turned in a “record-setting fall” for its jeans business, Kessler said. Put another way, it was the best quarter for denim sales in the history of the 41-year-old company, he said, adding that the trend has continued into the fourth quarter.
Some of the hottest athleisure brands, including Lululemon Athletica and Gap’s Athleta brand, are taking notice.
“They are both expanding into the outerwear and street wear business, diversifying into other areas that are not part of their heritage,” said D.A. Davidson analyst John Morris.
Lululemon has added more five-pocket jeans to its offerings for men, including the $128 ABC and Commission pants, which are made from stretchy material but shown with leather dress shoes.
Meanwhile, Athleta is offering more dresses that can be worn to work, including the $108 Wilder long-sleeve or the $89 Santorini high-neck dress.
“You’ll see more space devoted to casual wear and a smaller percentage to athleisure at Athleta stores,” said retail consultant Kathy Gersch of Kotter International, adding that Old Navy devoted far less selling space this fall to leggings, sports bras and athletic jackets and shirts.
“People have been expecting athleisure to cool for a while,” Gersch added.
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