Cotton Incorporated Combines Consumer Preference With Performance At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market

Tuesday August 03, 2010
New York, NY

The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market is the most visible trade show for the outdoor and fitness apparel brands and, increasingly, a natural fit for cotton. The well-known comfort of cotton has been joined in recent years by textile technologies that put the enduring fiber on a par with, and sometimes ahead of, synthetic fibers. Two such innovations, the WICKING WINDOWS™ and TransDRY™ technologies, are being exhibited at the Cotton Incorporated (Booth 155-213). The TransDRY™ technology is a yarn-based finish providing engineered moisture transfer in cotton athletic apparel. It is featured in the PMX TransDRY™ baselayer shirt from Polarmax, which has been receiving much positive recognition, including a 2010 Camping Life Editor’s Choice Award. It is also a favorite of Kilimanjaro Expedition Director and author Macon Dunnagan, who will be autographing copies of his novel, Sons of Kilimanjaro, at the Cotton Incorporated booth on Tuesday through Thursday, between 3:00 and 5:00 pm.

Consumers shopping for athletic apparel like to make informed purchase decisions. According to the Cotton Incorporated 2009 Sports Apparel Study, 77% of respondents said they were likely to read labels, and 64% said that the information provided on labels was likely to influence their purchases. A key piece of information found on labels is fiber content. When asked to choose among three athletic apparel products with the same price, style, and performance features but with different fiber content, most consumers (76%) chose cotton over polyester (12%) or nylon (12%).

Nearly a third of consumers (31%) said they avoided certain fibers when buying athletic apparel, and the most-avoided fiber was polyester (35%) — the main reasons being that it was uncomfortable, was too hot, and didn’t breathe. In contrast, the comfort of cotton makes it consumers’ favorite fiber to wear when exercising. When asked what attributes best described cotton athletic apparel, most consumers cited comfort (87%) and softness (86%), followed by durability (77%) and good fit (77%). However, despite consumers’ interest in cotton athletic apparel, the Retail Monitor™ found that only 38% of athletic apparel offered at retail contained cotton.

In a market dominated by synthetic fibers, only 3% of consumers said they were satisfied with their synthetic performance athletic apparel. Over a third (35%) said they had purchased athletic apparel with a feature that did not perform as expected. Most consumers ( 93%) said they would be upset if they bought a garment for a specific performance feature and it failed to perform, and 90% said they would not purchase the brand again.

Dissatisfied customers signal market opportunities. Consumers love cotton for its comfort, and they like the idea of cotton athletic apparel with performance features. When asked whether they would purchase cotton athletic apparel that offered the same performance features as synthetic apparel, almost all consumers (97%) said they would prefer a cotton alternative or would be willing to try it.

However, the Cotton Incorporated Retail Monitor™ found that only 13% of athletic apparel containing cotton was marketed as offering performance features, compared with 35% of total athletic apparel.




Regardless of fiber content, the most common performance feature was moisture management (including moisture wicking and quick drying), found in 95% of performance athletic apparel. Respondents in the Sports Apparel Study said they would be willing to pay a premium for cotton athletic apparel that wicks moisture away from the body (65%) or keeps the wearer dry (65%). Consumers’ favorable attitudes towards cotton in athletic apparel and their willingness to pay a premium for their favorite fiber suggest a market opportunity for performance-oriented cotton athletic apparel products — using, for example, Cotton Incorporated’s innovative TransDRY™ and Wicking Windows™ technologies for moisture management.

The Cotton Incorporated experts at Booth 155-213 can demonstrate a range of individual performance-based cotton technologies that wick moisture (fabric and yarn-applied) or resist water and wind (denim, cotton, and cotton fleece). The real opportunity for brands, however, is in providing customers the fiber they prefer (cotton) with a combination of performance features. With cotton and cotton technology, the applications and opportunities for outdoor and athletic apparel products are limited only by imagination.

For more information on moisture-management technologies for cotton products, please visit

For more information on Cotton Incorporated Market Research, including access to data, please visit:


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