Shoppers are headed down a healthier road

Jacqueline Renfrow

I feel sometimes that I am doomed.

My years of staving off the fashion fad are fruitless. I too will have to give into the permeating trend of athleisure wear that is sweeping the United States. For now, my use of it is only fleeting. I do the occasional afternoon school pickup in my yoga pants—which I did actually buy for working out, but now spend only 50 percent of the time using for anaerobic activity.

But soon, it will most likely become more regular. Let's face it, there is something about being comfortable that we all enjoy, especially as we age. And for those of us who have had children, the non-restrictive stretchy material that actually gives is probably a step in the right direction.

The apparel industry seems convinced that this fad is not going away either. And by the looks of it, as Generation X and Millennials start to age, it might only grow.

Sports Authority is the latest retailer to jump on the bandwagon, announcing yesterday the launch of its Champion GEAR line of athletic lifestyle wear, made for the "everyday athlete." And there are countless others. For example, Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) recently announced the expanded assortment of its active and wellness offerings, including a partnership with Gaiaim to launch an exclusive women's apparel collection. Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) announced that it will launch SIX:02, a women's yoga apparel brand. Even Target (NYSE:TGT) has launched an exclusive C9 Champion line.

Most of us can thank Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) for helping to create the fad. Even amid controversy—when founder Chip Wilson himself blamed bigger women for causing the material on his company's yoga pants to look transparent—nothing stopped the retailer from expanding its line.

But part of me wants to believe that athleisure wear is part of a larger trend, not based solely on comfort—that somewhere in there lies the hope of a healthier future. Perhaps some shoppers will buy these products and become inspired to be more active, walk a few more blocks, spend a little bit more time outdoors with their families.

And who's not to say that it isn't already happening? Organic, natural eating is also growing in popularity, which becomes apparent when looking at the changing purchasing habits of U.S. grocery shoppers. Where a shopper was once limited to buying local and wholesome foods at specialty stores such as Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) and Sprouts, they now have the chance to walk into most supermarkets and big-box retailers such as Target (NYSE:TGT) and Walmart (NYSE:WMT), and even some convenience stores, to get healthier options.

If a healthier, more natural lifestyle is in fact a growing trend that is here to stay, this could mean changes that will affect other sectors of retail, ranging of course from apparel and food to home appliances and furniture.

I for one am going to stay optimistic that it's a change for the better—for shoppers and for retailers. So I'm going to throw on my running shoes, walk to my car (this is LA after all) and drive to the Farmers' Market to continue down the path of a (hopefully) healthier future. -Jacqueline

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