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People can't stop buying leggings. That's great news for Lululemon and Athleta
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People can't stop buying leggings. That's great news for Lululemon and Athleta

  • Updated
People can't stop buying leggings. That's great news for Lululemon and Athleta

An employee moves a mannequin displaying a pair of leggings at the Lululemon Athletica Inc. sports apparel store on Regent Street in London, on July 27, 2017.

The pandemic has sparked broad shifts in the clothes people are wearing, boosting some retailers while leaving others behind.

Consumers are swapping out jeans and officewear for yoga pants, sweats and shorts as they work from home and spend more free time there.

That's great news for retailers of athleisure, the casual clothing designed for workouts and everyday wear.

Despite closing stores temporarily because of the pandemic, Lululemon said Tuesday that sales increased 2% to $903 million during the quarter ending August 2, compared with the same period last year. Lululemon was able to make up for temporary closures with sales online, which grew 157% last quarter.

"We are seeing a shift in behavior in terms of working from home, sweating from home and the increased importance of living an active and healthy lifestyle. These trends play to our strengths," CEO Calvin McDonald said on a call with analysts.

Strong women's sales were driven by different styles in shorts, the company said. It said its shorter inseam bike shorts were "resonating very well."

Overall apparel sales declined 34% from March to July from the year prior, including an even more dramatic fall in suits and men's dress shirts, sales of shorts, sweatpants and sports bras increased during that stretch, according to market research firm NPD Group.

"Consumers are leaning toward more of an at-home active lifestyle and using active apparel for everyday purposes, which does not always include exercise," said Maria Rugolo, analyst at NPD Group.

These changes have devastated some retail chains, such as Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew and Men's Warehouse parent Tailored Brands. All four have filed for bankruptcy during the pandemic.

But there have been other winners.

Athleta, the athleisure label at Gap, saw sales increase 6% during its latest quarter, despite Gap's sales falling. PVH, the parent of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, said athleisure clothing was one of its strongest sellers during its latest quarter. And Dick's Sporting Goods said consumers were gravitating to athletic attire.

"There has been a greater shift toward athletic apparel and active lifestyle [products] with people spending more time working and exercising at home," Dick's CEO Ed Stack said on a call with analysts last month.

Retail analysts predict the shift to athleisure will continue to grow, and companies like Lululemon will take advantage.

"We expect an accelerated consumer gravitation toward fitness [and] wellness apparel," Jefferies analyst Randal Konik said in a research note Tuesday. "We see [Lululemon] emerging even stronger."

Related: Check out photos of some of the most interesting looks from Paris Fashion Week

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