From an e-bike revolution and community fitness to ground-breaking tech and the power of recovery

Keen to know what’s in store for the sports, outdoor and wellbeing industries in 2021? While 2020 has been a year nobody will forget in a hurry, we’ve seen so much positivity across these sectors as companies – and consumers – have adapted to lockdowns, closures and a new way of living. To avoid information overload, we’ve shortlisted the top predictions and insights from our truly ‘in-the-know’ clients to inspire active lifestyles in 2021!

Bike is best

The cycling boom took the UK by storm this year and there are no signs of this slowing down. Even over the darker, colder and wetter months, the freedom and ease of riding a bike has been rediscovered and embraced. Jack Noy, Canyon’s UK Marketing Manager, says: “A lot of signs point to a growing market, with an influx of non-core cyclists turning to riding either for transport and utility or fitness and exercise reasons.”

The demand for bikes left many shops with no stock and large waiting lists over the summer months; the electric bike revolution finally bubbling and cycling rising significantly in consumer consciousness and demand. Noy comments “For riders who are cycling as a means of transport – and to some extent fitness – e-bikes look set to play a key role next year. This is on top of a huge demand for affordable, reliable, quality bikes for city living.”

Noy continues, “Having recently overhauled our urban and fitness range, as well as now offering four e-bike models in the urban and fitness categories – three of which launched this year – we hope Canyon are well placed to serve market demand as the season begins in early 2021.” Bikes are back by popular demand and it appears the craze is here to stay.

The running bug

Cycling isn’t the only activity to see a large upturn in participants in 2020 – despite the lack of races and events, running is on track to remain popular as we see in 2021.  “On was growing strong before COVID-19 and was able to continue to do so during the pandemic,” says On’s European Head of Communications, Vesna Stimac.

“Runners have shown high demand for On products in the past months. At the same time many retailers have gained market share with On at full margin. In dire times, people invest in themselves. A lot of them developed a habit of running or hiking and it became a very important part of this unprecedented time to stay healthy. We believe that most of these people will continue to do so.” Stimac continues.

Community focus

While the UK has spent a lot of 2020 in lockdown and under social distancing restrictions, running has continued to build communities and offer support digitally. Kelly Cundell at OOFOS, the ground-breaking  creators of sports recovery footwear and a brand starting to make its mark as iconically designed footwear with function, believes community-driven fitness is key to future participation and continued growth in sport: “Exercise is a way to be connected to your community and your people. Even though running is quite an individual sport you are seeing running groups – albeit virtual ones at the moment – grow – and that’s slated to continue into 2021 as individuals recognise the power of community.  It’s so much easier to stick with a workout plan when you have a community of like-minded individuals by your side.” 

Attention to technology

Fashion, sportswear and outdoor gear have all been merging for some time and the boundaries between work, home, sports and play are blurring and will continue to do so into 2021.

On’s Stimac says; “A new lifestyle is emerging for all at light speed and a new reality is asking for a new type of all-day comfort. On’s roots are in sports, performance, nature and design and by exploring the very edge of technical innovation and design, On has been adopted by those who hit refresh and take their ideas and life into a new direction. That’s why On has launched the Cloudnova, a sneaker for all day comfort with performance technology. There will be several updates coming and more products that sit between lifestyle and outdoor or performance.”

Similarly, OOFOS’s scientifically proven recovery technology is beginning to blur across sectors – from the performance athlete and the health and fitness enthusiast to the trend-setter – with the brand’s OOfoam™ technology cutting through to positively impact work-out recovery, promote wellness and self-care and inspire every-day wellness. OOFOS’ Cundell says ’It will be more important than ever for consumers to seek out gear that truly impacts all parts of their routine – performance, nutrition, calm and recovery.” November sees OOFOS launch a closed toe shoe option – eeZee – as it builds its Autumn/Winter Collection to capture consumers across all seasons, and the OOcloog is set to shine with the clog style of shoe having a renewed fashion moment.

Sustainability matters

The S word is going to be an ever-increasing hot topic amongst brands and across the industry in 2021 with many pivoting to offer a more sustainable product. The demand is there and it’s something sports, outdoor and wellness industries are heightening their seriousness and focus on.  How is a product made? Where are materials sourced from? Are old products being recycled? These are all questions that consumers are actively asking, and companies are now responding.

“I think the consumer is going to be attracted to those brands that make a real commitment and stand on sustainability, purpose and balance of physical and mental wellbeing. Giving back and being accessible is so important,” OOFOS’ Cundell says. “You can already see those brands that have taken COVID-19 as a time to reflect on what is important at this time and pivot, making changes and being confident and true to these.”

In September, On launched the industry’s first fully recyclable, cyclical shoe made from castor beans and available on a subscription basis. Once the shoes are worn, customers send them back and get a new pair. While many of the big brands such as Adidas, Reebok and Salomon have announced sustainable products in recent months, On is leading the drive in circularity in sportswear with the £25 per month subscription service.

Stimac says: “As the fashion and consumer industry at large moves towards circularity and sustainability, the question is: will young, agile brands like On have a unique advantage to fill this new need in the industry? With business models that are easier and faster to adapt than, say, heritage brands with decades-long processes in place, could this be an opportunity for small brands to make their mark?”

The return of the gym

COVID-19 has caused disruption to everyday life for many people, companies and organisations. Facilities such as gyms have been forced to close during lockdowns in the UK and, although this has led to an increase in participation in outdoor activities such as cycling and running, there is a strong feeling that gyms will remain a key part of the lives of so many people.

motive8, an established global market leader in the design and installation of bespoke residential, commercial and workplace health and fitness facilities, believe gyms will make a strong return next year. Rob Clarke, director at motive8 says: “Gyms will play a huge part in the recovery from COVID-19 in the early part of 2021 when it is colder and darker outside; people will be less inclined to go out to exercise so will seek an exercise environment indoors.”

He continues: “Group training will bounce back once COVID-19 is over and when people are able to interact in a more confined space. It is still a key part of gym operations but with limits on class sizes, the experience is not what it was or will be again. Mental health has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds, though, so we see mental wellbeing and mental health becoming a key part of gym offerings in 2021.”

Managing Director at motive8, Nick Sadler, also thinks there may well be a shift in focus – at least for the time being. He comments: “I do not see large classes in tight spaces returning for quite some time. I think demand for holistic classes will go up significantly, albeit in small number classes. Meditation, yoga, Pilates and barre are all set to have large increases as well, while outdoor trading – no matter what the weather – will continue to increase in popularity.”

Spending Power

This past year suggests that people are willing to spend money on the things they care about. Health and fitness is a huge part of life for many and there are many brands releasing innovative and progressive products on a regular basis. The UK’s first 2020 lockdown saw items such as dumbbells, yoga mats, bikes and more sell out fast as people kitted themselves out for home and solo workouts and this may well continue.

Sealskinz, the British waterproof accessories brand of choice has seen purchasing power thrive for its products even during the summer months. “Sales globally of Sealskinz has increased during lockdown” says Gareth Jolly, Head of Sales at Sealskinz. “This has mainly been driven by sales of our waterproof socks, which makes sense given the summer months where hat and glove sales are traditionally low.” He continues; “With an increased interest in outdoor adventures and a bolder mind-set to exercising outside in the colder months we are seeing new and envigored interest from both retailers and consumers in all our accessory ranges.”

As 2021 approaches, certainly, there is a new motivation, energy and purpose to movement.

For press enquiries, please contact: Josh Puttock @ Aspire PR (