Major retailer’s move into ‘luxe’ sportswear

It’s targeting younger shoppers with new brands that focus on mindfulness and affordable luxury, as well as sustainable production.

Australia’s largest footwear retailer, which owns stores like The Athlete’s Foot and Platypus, is branching out into “luxe” sportswear with a new brand set to hit the market soon.

The brand, called Mindful Department, is focused around positivity and mindfulness, while offering sporting wear that is comfortable and luxurious, according to Accent Group general manager digital and loyalty Kasie Heathcote.

“There’s a capsule of products designed that are set to go live in Stylerunner stores and we will have a website within six months and we are excited to see those products. It will be really beautiful,” she told

“It’s that premium product at an affordable price point, inspired by brands like Sporty & Rich but at a price point that is much more accessible.”

Emily Oberg began Sporty & Rich as a “mood board” on Instagram before launching it as a fully fledged lifestyle and activewear label in 2015. The brand is inspired by country club attire and iconic professional athletes, with an eclectic colour palette and ’90s proportions with products ranging in price from $60 to $155.

Fashion gets casual and comfy during pandemic

Ms Heathcote said across the board casual and comfortable brands have been growing in popularity in the last year, including Dr Martens, Sketchers and activewear.

“We saw some really positive signs on Stylerunner with a brand called Exie, which Accent Group made a decision to acquire the brand at the beginning of the year. Exie is predominantly tights and performance wear, but there are really sustainable production methodologies,” she said.

“It was started by Christina Exie who is on one of the runway shows and she started the brand 12 months ago when she saw a gap in the market based on what she saw in Europe and what she saw back in Australia. It’s youth-orientated, quite sexy and sustainable and at an affordable price point for that younger consumer – it’s probably 18 to 30, but skewing more on the youth side and female predominantly. We are actually planning on opening Exie stores in the future as we have seen an opportunity.”

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Pandemic saw growth in at-home exercise options

Professor Gary Mortimer, retail expert from the Queensland University of Technology, said the growth of athlete wear combined with leisure was accelerated with the pandemic.

“Obviously when gyms closed and social distancing measures came into place really the only exercise people could do was to cycle or to run or jog or walk, so solo exercises and we saw a lift in home gyms and yoga at home,” he said.

“Obviously the segment is viable and it’s dominated by a couple of key brands currently including 2xu, Lululemon and Lorna Jane. I’d imagine that Accent Group has looked very carefully at the competitors in that market and will position their new brands possibly below or between those market leaders. They may position brands on ethical production or possibly sustainability or possibly they might position them on price or quality in order to differentiate those new brands from existing competitors.”

Prof Mortimer added that generally companies don’t choose to adopt a head to head competitive approach when entering a market dominated by major players. He said it’s unlikely it will take on Lorna Jane in terms of quality or Lulelemon for its in-store experience, but local production or celebrity endorsement could help them make a mark.

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Growth in digital sales as result of lockdowns

Last year digital sales accounted for 22 per cent of total retail sales for Accent Group in the first half of the year, while much of the country was in lockdown, a 110 per cent increase compared to 2019 – despite footwear being a traditionally hard space to attract people online, said Ms Heathcote.

“We saw stores reopen and it was encouraging to see the results seen in digital become a permanent behaviour shift to consumers using digital. The categories that we support have been performing very well and we have benefited greatly considering we do footwear,” she said.

“We are predominantly sneaker-based so they are a staple favourite and even more so when people haven’t needed to go into the office. There has been a casualisation of what people are wearing and then we also have product that sits in the performance space so product around people wanting to get fit and healthy so our leisure wear at Stylerunner has gone from strength to strength as well as Athlete’s Foot.”

There are plans to replicate the success of their loyalty program from Athlete’s Foot across other brands as 58 per cent of repeat purchases come from loyalty members, Ms Heathcote said.


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