Work Out Your Wallet

Brands like Lululemon and Under Armour make gear fit for everyone from extreme athletes to workout newbies. Their garments wick away moisture, feature anti-microbial properties, and even have hidden pockets for keys, phones and MP3 players (much like the sportswear in this industry). All of these accessories help during hours of sweating at the gym. But these brands have also introduced another element to exercise gear: increased prices. With a pair of spandex running from $75 to $100, their garments are far from affordable, but people continue to purchase them. (Lululemon made over $70 million last quarter alone.)

The blog post “Are You A Lulu Lemming?” on BeWellPhilly sparked my interest in the topic. The writer, Emily Leaman, questions if the loyalty to these brands is due to brainwashing or truly superior apparel. I am torn. I own a mix of high-price and low-price workout gear and Leaman’s post is making me question how much better the high-price pieces are. Like with many more costly items on the retail or promotional side, more money often means better quality and longer lifespan. But if mid-price and high-price garments boast the same performance properties, is there much of a difference?

I discussed it with a friend of mine who runs almost daily. She believes the gear is worth the extra expense. She mentioned owning one pair of good running spandex and one pair of high-end shorts. These two pieces get her through four seasons of running. Her consensus was that a few good pieces are worth it, but a whole closet is not. You wear sneakers until they are worn down and you need a new pair. Shouldn’t the same be said for leggings and performance tops?

This is not a denigration of Lululemon, Under Armour or any of their contemporaries. I own and have owned garments from many of them and I love working out in them. I just wanted to pose these questions to you: Is name-brand or purported “high-quality” performance wear worth the extra expense? Also, will the new popularity of high-price retail gear encourage you to sell promotional athletic wear at a higher price point?

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