Net-A-Sporter launched earlier this month to add a sportswear arm to their luxury ecommerce proposition. Clever right? I know from working in the Belgravia and Chelsea area that women have changed the way they work out. They’re no longer hiding in baggy, ugly workout gear teamed with trainers in garish colours, they want to look stylish when they work out, not just functional. The outfit you wear for the gym, or your Barrecore class, or your Pilates, is often the uniform you’ll wear for most of the day. You might do the school run in your Adidas trainers or go for lunch in your Nike’s. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped Net-A-Porter’s buyers that these days, women are running around all over, on the go, in sports luxe outfits, clutching their Chloe bags and their Starbucks with a full face of makeup because working out, being healthy is almost a status symbol for the modern woman, she’s proud to be taking care of herself.
My question is, why has it taken so long? The sportswear industry in the UK alone is worth £5.8bn and set to grow 3.2% this year. So with all this opportunity why are women so marginalised by the sports industry? Sure, not all of us like sport, but most of us like keeping active in some way, shape or form. If any women have been to a high street sports store recently, you’ll know how hard it is to seek out the tiny section of the store devoted to ‘women’ and locate those two pairs of shorts, one top and one pair of trainers (in pink?). Nike town in Oxford Circus is on like the 5th floor or something. Like a dirty secret. Sports bras? You’re having a laugh! Sports bras are terrible or non existent in sports stores, so try Marks and Spencers where they’re all SHOVED on a plastic arm so they look as unappealing as possible. My favourite sports bra is Panache FYI so they really need to find a high street sports store to partner with.
I don’t know what triggered the decision for Net-A-Porter to start on luxury sportswear – customer research, a new buyer, social changes, more sport on tv than ever before, but bravo, a gap in the market for where I’m standing, a good business decision. For women looking for sportswear it will start to become the first port of call, mainly because the branding and marketing has been so thorough and they actually named it something sporty rather than just adding some extra trainers in. Net-a-Sporter win a gold medal for the campaign. Super slick imagery, how much do you want to be the woman with the horse in her cool white shirt and jodhpurs? They’ve created their own tribe ‘join our team’ which also includes social media hashtags to bond everyone together, and high profile bloggers and sporty women have been drafted in to underline the key USPS. Finally the product selection is classy, functional and elegant covering a wide range of sports and categorising them into sports, clear language that isn’t patronising ‘Net-A-Sporter, Your Time, Your Space, Your Style.’ For bigger sports retailers, listen up, you could have done better, but this is a relay race, there’s still time to catch up.
PS – I couldn’t help but think about how fresh this approach is for luxury, but at the same time, we have been talking about empowering women through sports and clothing for quite some time. Here’s a clip from a zillion years ago, What Women Want film released in 2000: