How ‘gorpcore’ upstarts took on Nike and Adidas

Kate Calvert, an analyst at Investec, agrees it is a matter of brands prioritising creating innovative designs and looks.

“Both Nike and Adidas have gone through a couple of years of slower innovation relying on key franchises like Air Force One,” she says. “You have definitely seen more interesting designs coming from On Running, New Balance and Hoka.”

While Adidas and Nike remain the biggest players in sportswear, the rise of these smaller brands is causing a headache for both, Calvert says.

In February, Deckers, which owns Hoka, posted a 22pc increase in sales of the trainers brand to hit $429m (£340m) for the third quarter compared with a year earlier.

Swiss athletics brands On Running raked in sales of £1.6bn in 2023, a surge of 47pc compared with the year prior.

“Outdoor enthusiasts and young urbanites alike have been gravitating to gorpcore’s functional, outdoors-inspired fashion, such as shell jackets and hiking-style sneakers,” McKinsey analysts wrote in a recent report.

“In the year ahead, brands are expected to forge ever-closer ties between style and utility as lifestyle brands deepen investment in the outdoors, and outdoor brands increasingly court fashion-focused customers.”

According to UK figures from GlobalData, between 2019 and 2022, Hoka and On Running both made significant gains. Hoka went from holding 0.5pc of the sportswear market in 2019 to 1.6pc in 2022 and On Running from 0.3pc to 0.6pc.

Nike’s share of the sportswear market, meanwhile, slipped from 14.1pc to 13.2pc. Adidas fell from 11pc to 9.6pc. There is still a crucial gap between the leaders and their rivals. But, signs that shoppers are switching to other brands will add to frustrations among the sportswear incumbents.

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