Outdoor performance apparel future


Year 2020 almost come to an end with COVID-19 shocking the world which surely have put strains in the textile and apparel supply chain. But among all the challenges posed on both the retail and the supply side, the outdoor performance apparel industry has stood firm ground as consumers preferred more outdoor activities.

Figure: Textile solutions providers say that there is plenty of activity in textile innovation among the consumers alongside new product development continuing within outdoor brands.

Amid this global pandemic, the outdoor performance industry showed positivity and acknowledged as it persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly noticing that these buyers still wanted to get outside and wanted quality apparel, keeping demand for workwear and durable attire high.

Textile solutions providers say that there is plenty of activity in textile innovation among the consumers alongside new product development continuing within outdoor brands.

“The outdoor industry has been resilient to the pandemic, and their strong marketing of performance product is appealing to a consumer focused on spending more time outdoors,” said David Parkes, founder and CEO of Concept III, a leading outdoor performance apparel brand.

“Inventories appear to have been managed well and the industry has worked together to support a challenged supply chain within a resilient business model.”

To keep inventory in check, brands had been cautious about buying new merchandise throughout 2020, according to Parkes. While the carryover inventory levels are limiting new product adoptions for fall 2021, plenty of new programs will be more evident in fall 2022.

This means that Concept III expects a more apparent, aggressive buying pattern leading into 2021. In particular, the brands that have marketed themselves well during the past several years prior to the pandemic and have a strong online presence are optimistic for 2021.

That’s not to say outdoor players will have it easy as they acclimate to changes within the supply chain. Disruption in the yarn supply chain in Asia will be challenging as the season progresses, Parkes said. And on top of that, there will be more brands that are consolidating their suppliers to gain a more complete insight of exactly how and where their products are made. In fact, a May McKinsey & Co. survey indicated that 73 percent of sourcing executives plan to consolidate their supplier base by at least 5 percent.

But as has been seen already throughout the pandemic, the brands that can adapt to the changing trends will continue to thrive. Outdoor apparel has already demonstrated this, as more brands pivot to the new realities of the indoors, such as the workplace.

“The new work environment and lifestyle will favor casual, comfortable and performance apparel. We have seen a revolution in workplace habits and attire—and lifestyle in general. Casual fashionable attire and online meetings from home will become more of the norm,” Parkes said.

Even with COVID-19 vaccines now set to come out by 2021, which will convey a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy to the world, Parkes feels that present buying trends are not going ending soon.

“The introduction of—and consumer confidence in—a new vaccine will renew a positive attitude to the future but will not have a short-term impact on the interest in casual, performance lifestyle apparel layers and the brands that live by this styling,” Parkes said.

Though it is in doubt this new work-from-home culture will substitute the intersection of performance textiles and casual attire in the long term, Concept III maintains that it will keep a laser focus on managing the supply chain with its customers and maintain a close eye on these trends.

While Parkes admits that the supply chain has been fractured to some degree due to the pandemic, “supporting our customers’ business through servicing it even more closely is an important responsibility to us,” he said.

With the outdoor performance apparel industry maintaining its push forward, Concept III will continue to work with its mills to introduce more sustainable processing and more sustainable textiles.

“This is the critical focus of the many new textile innovations we are planning for 2022-2023—it will be a creative period,” Parkes said.