The State Of Sports Bras
We have heard of so many brands entering into the sports bra space. Personally, I say it is about time. ThirdLove which is another San Francisco company that focuses in on half cup sizes said “sports bra” has become the most-searched term on its website. Nike has tried multiple times to expand into larger sizes. Lululemon just invested the most amount of money in teh companies’ illustrious history to try to bring in new consumers. Have you been into an Athleta lately? The mannequins are designed to represent diversity. Even Victoria’s Secret has been investing more in the category and marketing debuting a line of sports bras and leggings called On Point (which I have a lot of opinions on).
“It’s a competitive market for sure, but there’s no company that’s saying sports bra for women, first,” Heidi Zak of ThirdLove said in an interview. Obviously she has not heard of Bloom Bras because that is the entire reason this company exists.
Citing data from market research firm NPD Group, fashion analyst Kristen Classi-Zummo, the sports bra category has been on fire, even during the pandemic, when overall apparel sales took a tumble. “Women want to be comfortable in their sports bras. We spent the majority of the past 20 months in them and do not want to go back. Our repeat purchases are through the roof.” Says Elyse Kaye of Bloom Bras
Year-to-date sales of sports bras in the United States have totaled $2.1 billion, up 53% compared from the same period in 2019, she said, citing NPD’s market research. On a year-over-year basis, sales of sports bras are up 48%.
“Comfort features are what’s driving the growth,” Zummo said. “And what a lot of brands are offering with sports bras is an elevated essential that’s not just for function and playing sport. They’re pretty and they’re comfortable.” Plus, for so many women, this is the only wire-free option that they have. That continues to be a huge driver as more and more folks get on the no underwire train.
Authenticity in marketing comes up frequently. “You can clearly see the airbrush lines in photography used in most of the brands giving women cleaner and more cleavage. They have altered the body shapes using the magic of technology but that is not what real women look like. I wish my breasts were symmetrical globes but as a 38DDD, that is actually offensive.” says Chelsea Wilson who worked in the marketing department of several lingerie brands.advertisement in The New York Times in which it issued an open letter slamming derogatory comments that members of Victoria’s Secret’s management team had made toward women.
“Direct-to-consumer brands are definitely having an impact,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of these smaller brands really resonate with an array of different age groups. ... They focus on empowerment. They focus on diversity.” Elyse Kaye from Bloom Bras agrees with this statement. “It is our mission to empower women of all shapes, sizes and stages of life. We want to see how a product is going to look on our bodies before we invest. Most of the women who find Bloom Bras cannot walk into a store and just buy a bra. And sizing is the hardest part regardless of where the shopping takes place.”
The sports bra market all over the world is seeing huge growth but not from the players you would expect. There is more of a focus on healthy living but that means something different to all of us. The population has shifted and there is a rise in the conversation surrounding body inclusivity. The sports bra is the most difficult item to manufacture. The Bloom Bra, for instance, has 36 different pieces. It is about engineering for heavier breasts. The bras that slip over the head and the job bras that are two pieces of cloth sewn together are not designed for busty women.
The sports bra is not just for activity any more. Comfort, breathability and lack of wire-free are driving more and more women to wear a sports bra all day. The growing benefits of sports bras over traditional bras is forcing traditional bra brands to look at expansion. Yoga, zumba, Peloton, walking, Zoom boot camp all saw major increases with more and more people deciding to cut expensive, non-inclusive gym memberships and exercise from home. This trend is not going anywhere.
As the category expands, as do the ways we shop for support. For instance, companies like Bloom Bras focus on Encapsulation using a defined cup structure to encapsulate each breast. This eliminates the wire but still gives maximum support without uniboob. The wider racerback design works to improve posture and to reduce shoulder pressure. Plus, the digging that occurs in the traditional sports bra or regular bra is eliminated. Compression came from the multitude of breast cancer survivors and surgeons as a key feature that they wanted in a mastectomy bra. Keeping the breast tissue close to the body, this classic support method provides maximum support and minimizes unwanted movement. The front zip or back hook or slip over method is a decision that comes down to the end consumer’s preference. Same can be said for padding. For the DDD bra-wearer, padding is often not desired. However, nipple coverage is. A lightweight material is not going to cover. The ongoing search for a supportive non-wired bra that also provides great shaping from a 28C - 56L is a challenge. Mastectomy bras for non-elective breast reconstructive surgery drive a good portion of development and sales for companies like Bloom.
The activewear industry continues to evolve with investors pushing for increased margins coming off of the pandemic where companies saw a complete shift in business. Traditional retail which is where the volume is was hurt temporarily but mom and pops may never recover. Online businesses, however, skyrocketed. Companies who were already set up saw margins, customer loyalty and new consumer channels expand. Supply chain issues are now the bigger challenge. Brands that rely on production in places like China have seen spikes in material and labor costs with shipping halts disrupting right before the holiday season. Are these companies bracing and prepared? Only time will tell.