Sweatshirts and Fanny Packs are Wardrobe Winners

2020 style: Sweatshirts are a top seller at Uniqlo in NYC. Urban Outfitter sweatshirts come with eco-friendly hangtags.

What does it say about active outdoor when the top selling items are sweatshirts and fanny packs? According to recent market research, the sweatshirt business is strong. For instance, in the outdoor space, sweatshirt sales were up 6.9 percent in the 12 months ending November 2019 and at outdoor specialty stores specifically, sweatshirt sales in 2019 experienced 9 percent growth over the previous years, according to data shared by NPD at the OR+SS trade show held in Denver January 28-February 1.

The sweatshirt revolution is a bright spot in a lackluster apparel market. Activewear continues its slow downward trajectory with sales drooping 2.4 percent last year.

Now consider the fanny pack: Sales up 82 percent in 2019, making NPD’s list of Top Volume and Growth Categories. The Handbags and Totes categories follow with impressive growth. The fact that “handbags” is now considered a legitimate outdoor market category is noteworthy in itself.

What this says about outdoor can be summed up in one word: lifestyle. Gone is the line between active and casual; Technical and trendy now go hand in hand like never before.

New York City shopping meccas spotlights this trend. At the Uniqlo store at the hip Hudson Yards mall, sweatshirts are front and center. Stacks of colorful sweatshirts reside by the shop’s entrance and feature in the main windows. A display for “Dry Sweat” promotes “lightweight ultra elastic for ease of movement” in a red hoodie, pointing out that it “quickly dries sweat.” Tech-y icons for “stretch” and “dry” emphasize these features. The very basic sweatshirt is styled with a youthful casual skirt. At the Urban Outfitters on 5th Avenue, sweatshirts dominate. New styles in muted abstract floral patterns sport paper hang tags made with wildflower seeds. Next store at COS, a stylish, upscale off-shoot of H&M, embellished sweatshirts hang on racks alongside cashmere knit tops and silk blouses.

In all three retail locations, fanny packs are on display in a range of sizes, shapes, color and price.

Textile suppliers recognize the drift toward wardrobe casualization and are bringing to market a wave of innovation in performance knits with eye-catching patterns, cozy textures and everyday functionality. Performance-engineered comfort is subtle with garment wearability a key attribute, whether that’s for fun or fashion.