The First Step Towards Sporting Shoe Sustainability: 6-Month Update

It has now been six months since the introduction of the ASGA SOS Shoe Recycling Initiative, and the results are in.

Across Australia, the disposal of pre-loved athletic shoes, via incineration or landfill, continues to represent a major environmental concern; as well as being a significant waste of reclaimable materials. As a result, the ASGA SOS Initiative was developed to provide an environmentally-conscious alternative for discarding unused footwear – through an industry-led collection, recycling and repurposing program – with the aim of closing the loop and taking a meaningful step towards sustainability.

In just six months since rolling-out the Victorian Pilot program, we’re proud to announce that the ASGA SOS Initiative has already collected over 65,000 pairs of sporting shoes that were once destined for the dump. As part of our end-to-end solution reclaiming this valuable resource, our recycling partner – Save Our Soles – will recycle over 20 tonnes of reusable components into brand new sporting products; including high-quality gym flooring (shown here – https://youtu.be/H_Pu-23xIjU).

ASGA Executive Director, Shaun Bajada, said the results of the Victorian pilot program have exceeded all expectations and are an exciting demonstration of the viability of the circular economy and the value of sustainability-focused practices in the Australian sporting goods industry;

“We could not be more proud of how our members, initiative partners and the broader sporting goods industry have come together to take real action and move the needle in tackling the problem of footwear waste. With over 65,000 pairs of shoes reclaimed across 100 collection points since January this year, the results speak for themselves; and we eagerly look forward to expanding the scope of the initiative across the rest of the country and stretching our recycling goals for next six months and beyond.”

John Elliott, director of initiative recycling partner Save Our Soles, also echoed this sentiment in light of the encouraging success of the first roll-out phase;

“I am so excited that ASGA has shown such leadership in the SOS recycling program. The sporting industry has always been a leader in the market and for ASGA to get the wholesalers and retailers together to amplify their impact into recycling footwear in Australia is a substantial step forward in showing that when we collaborate we can achieve great things. Our industry realises that we have to change our mindset with end of life product and the ASGA SOS initiative is a great example of what needs to be done.”

This resoundingly positive outcome could not have been possible without the valued support of participating brands, and ASGA would like to sincerely thank the leadership at Converse, New Balance, Globe, JD Sports, Asics, Rebel, SportsPower and adidas. The success of this combined effort – through the deployment of in-store collection bins, and the collaborative sharing and promotion of the ASGA SOS message with respective audiences – is a promising indicator for further success of the project and the nation-wide roll-out planned for the latter part of this year. ASGA would also like to thank the countless people who have chosen to drop-off and donate their shoes across our growing collection network, each and every pair of old shoes that can be given a new life counts.

As the ASGA SOS Initiative is now gearing up to move into the next stage of nation-wide deployment, we’re calling on the support of all Australian sporting goods brands – big and small – to join us in taking the next step forward into sustainability. To learn more about the program, and how to get involved, visit https://asgasosinitiative.com.au/ for more information.

$130b Wage Subsidy Plan for Businesses

The Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA) supports the announcements made on Monday by the Federal Government regarding the $130 billion ‘JobKeeper’ wage subsidy scheme for major industries in light of the significant challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. This national assistance package – the third in as many weeks – seeks to keep Australian businesses, many of which within the sporting goods sector, afloat during these times of great uncertainty.

ASGA Executive Director, Shaun Bajada, said the current public health and economic crisis has taken an “unprecedented toll” on Australian Sporting Goods brands, including many ASGA members, diminishing both revenues and subsequent ability of businesses to pay and retain staff.

“These support measures are a positive step towards protecting Australian Sporting Goods businesses and the vital employment they provide to our country’s workforce, however, there is still more that can be done by the Government to minimise further damage to the industry and expedite the recovery process.” Mr Bajada added.

ASGA supports the additional measures proposed by the National Retailers Association (NRA) in their 10-Point Retail Recovery Plan also released on Monday. Of these recommendations, ASGA has identified the implementation of a robust rental relief scheme for businesses as the highest policy priority; following employee wage subsidies.

Mr Bajada stated that “brands, distributors and retailers need a specific and consistent approach to dealing with commercial property rental and getting clarity from the government on this issue is urgent.”

ASGA is looking to the Federal government to take these further actions immediately and is working closely with other industry associations to provide policy guidance and advocacy on behalf of the Australian Sporting Goods industry.

For more information regarding the ‘JobKeeper’ wage subsidy scheme, providing an allowance of up to  $1500 per employee, and employee requirements for accessing it, register your interest at https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/jobkeeper.

FASHION MEETS FUNCTION: The rise & rise of Athleisure

Amidst fluctuating sales in the Performance Sportswear market over recent years, the category of Athleisure, has emerged as an anomalous beacon of consistent growth. Going beyond sales figures and market-share, Athleisure also represents a defining cultural trend – where fashion meets function – born from the converging demands of the fast-paced, style-conscious consumers of today. Looking the part has become as important as leading an active lifestyle, particularly for younger generations, and sporting apparel brands are doubling down on this sustained market movement that has proven to be far from the fad it was once thought to be.

Although the precise origins of ‘sport-casual’ apparel remain hotly contested, it’s worth noting the contribution of brands that served as the vanguard in tapping the burgeoning trend and seeding it’s phenomenal expansion. Nearly 20 years ago, Lululemon hit the market with ‘yoga pants’ – the first product of it’s kind to merge technical sportswear with a comfortable, aesthetic appeal; clothing that is as suited to the gym as it is the street. Since its inception, popularity and prominence of this product category exploded, with today’s market for activewear leggings alone in the tens of billions globally. Catalysed by – at least in part – Lululemon’s innovation in the space, this approach to clothing design spread beyond the female-focus to men’s sportswear and athletically-inspired footwear – both subcategories experiencing similar atypical growth rates. Athleisure has rapidly become a distinct category unto itself, with its recent inclusion as an official dictionary term cementing it’s proliferation and profundity in the sportswear space. The Australian Athleisure market has eagerly followed the lead of global brands (including Nike, Adidas and Under Armour) and their capitalisation in the United States, and much can be learned from the drivers behind the stalwart shift in buyer preferences;

Active Lifestyles
Across the globe, the last decade has seen a spike in the promotion of the fitness industry – particularly across social media – leading to a greater focus on healthy living. Athleisure products have carved out a unique niche in this cultural space, allowing consumers to both participate in sporting activities and portray their identities as active individuals; using clothing as a social statement.

Formal Fashion Pushback
Not only has Athleisure apparel pervaded fitness and casual settings as the clothing of choice, it has even become increasingly acceptable as a fashionable form of work attire. Many progressive workplaces – particularly within creative fields largely comprised of millennial professionals – welcome comfortable sportswear as an appropriate alternative to formal business wear.

Strategic Partnerships
Leading Athleisure brands are increasingly leveraging fitness and fashion influencers to boost the cultural clout of the category, and building loyalty through the follower bases of these social ambassadors. Celebrity endorsements of the Athleisure movement not only inspire consumers to participate in an active lifestyle, but also feel part of the community through the products that represent it.

These factors, among others, have seen many Australian brands make bold moves to secure a slice of the growing Activewear market pie – as predictions for further expansion show promise exceeding that of the more mature categories in the active apparel sector. And for those brands looking to break out from conventional performance sportswear and take a punt on Athleisure, a swap from technical runners to running-inspired sneakers might be all that’s needed to get a foot in the door.