Sport Innovation/Skins Sportswear/Technology and innovation

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Compression garments are body-moulded, elastic apparels which provide the body muscles with mild compression to increase the blood flow to specific muscle groups. This increased blood flow increases the athlete’s performance as well as reduces the risk of injury and supports the muscle recovery during and after the work out.

In the past compression garments were used as medical devices to prevent and treat burns as well as low blood pressure. Also muscle strains and sprains were prevented by it, plus they were used on long flights in order to avoid vein thrombosis because the garments increase venous return and reduce peripheral swelling.

Nowadays the compression garments provide additional features such as antimicrobial protection and antistatic properties. Furthermore they support the body’s breathability and the moisture management. They have enhanced fabric durability and are made of stain release technology. Additionally, they are constructed to support the athlete’s temperature regulation and protect the sports person against ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

There are several different designs of compression garments but they are all made of fine denier yarns which are produced from blends of elastane and polyester. Thereby the amount of elastane is relatively high in order to achieve the best possible compression on the athlete’s body. The high quality yarns of the compression garments do not stretch out of shape and therefore there are no problems regarding repeated wearing and washing.

Most of the regular compression garments are available in small, medium and large sizes but some of the new technologies make it possible to get compression garments which are based on the body mass index (BMI) in order to achieve the optimum compression on the athlete’s body. Additionally some of the manufacturers included special panels in their compression garments to provide the athlete with targeted compression on specific muscle groups.

The biggest manufacturers of compression garments are two companies which are located in Australia. Body Science as well as Skins are companies which are specialists in terms of compression garments whereas brand companies such as Adidas, Asics, Nike, Under Armour and 2XU also sell compression garments but only as one additional device of their product range.

Many famous professional athletes already wear compression clothing regularly even if the technology is relatively new.

There are a number of studies on compression garments in terms of performance enhancement. However, their findings often go against each other. For example, in a study of the effect of compression garments in improving performance of cricket players, Duffield (2007)[8] found that compression garments did not reduce the lactate build-up during an intensive exercise, which contradicts with the findings of other studies. However, a positive benefit was found in terms of reducing post-exercise trauma and perceived soreness. Furthermore, since the skin temperature was higher while wearing the suits without any body mass losses, it is assumed that compression garments assist in effective thermoregulation.

The market for performance enhancing clothing[9] is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global textile industry. It is supplied by the emergence of innovative process technologies, new fabrics and fibres. In addition it is raised by the changes of consumer’s lifestyles because nowadays people are living longer and spending and increased time on recreational activities than in the past. Therefore the compression garments manufacturers needed to develop new high-tech garments for a wider range of sporting activities including athletics, swimming, parachuting, aerobics and windsurfing just to name a few.

The technology of compression garments[10] is improving targeted muscles which results in increased muscle endurance and stamina. A muscle sheath makes it possible to create the best possible compression on a specific muscle group. By enclosing such a muscle sheath in each region of the compression garment, the targeted muscle groups are being supported and strengthened. It also decreases muscular micro-tears which are caused by muscle vibration during exercises. This delays the beginning of muscle soreness (DOMS) and enhances the recovery time. The devices also improve the body’s own sensory mechanism for movement, motor coordination and balance, which is called proprioception. By using targeted compression to improve the alignment of the muscles and decreasing translational movement the oscillation is reduced. In addition there is a promotion of the linear movements which leads to improved muscle efficiency which results in increased efficiency in movement as well as reduces injuries due to muscle misalignment.

Compression garments also promoting venous return and therefore enhancing circulation throughout the athlete’s body. This is a physiological improvement that improves the oxygenated blood flow which is responsible for the body’s performance as well as the power, endurance and the removal of waste such as lactic acid.

Business Innovation

Offerings: SKINS is offering a wide range of compression garments. They supply women, men and youth collections. In addition they provide a special collection for triathlon and cycling. In each of the named product lines they supply different kinds of bottoms as well as different kinds of shirts. As a result the company could create a product which is fairly valued by their customers.

Platform: SKINS technology was used in the medical sector before it was built into sport clothing to enhance athlete’s performances. The technology is adapted to athlete’s needs in several different kinds of sporting activities based on a used modularity to create a diverse set of secondary offerings. Therefore the company could adapt the existing technology in compression garments used in the medical sector to create a product for the new target market of sports people. This was SKINS opportunity to invent the garments cheaper and quicker than they could have done without the existing devices.

Solutions: SKINS espescially focusses on professional athletes and provides them with a wide range of different compression garments. Therefore they give those athletes the opportunity to create sponsorship agreements with the company as well.

But as the needs of athletes intend to grow SKINS need to find a way to provide those athletes with their particular needs. Therefore they need to increase the research in the field to provide the sport people with enough evidence regarding the performance enhancement of compression garments. They also need to interact with their customers to improve their products based on the consumer’s feedback. Furthermore SKINS is a fairly small company with only a couple of partnerships so far. Therefore the company should improve new partnerships in order to define new target markets as well as new products and further research.

Customers: The company provides athletes with a wide range of compression garments regarding different sports as well as different parts of the body. This product range makes it possible to create a fairly high value for the customers because for every single device there are specific adoptions in order to improve the athlete’s performance in the best possible way.

Nevertheless SKINS is more targeting elite athletes and it should still improve their awareness amongst recreational athletes as well to increase the number of athletes of different sporting activities.

Customer Experience: According to several costumer reviews the experience of wearing SKINS compression garments is mostly positive. Especially in terms of the recovery the compression garments left a good impression on the customers.

But the company should improve their communication with their customers by setting up specialised SKINS stores as well as a more interactive website with a customer community.

Value Capture: SKINS created compression garments based on the technology of the medical devices which already existed in the market. By including this technology into sporting clothes they increased the value of their product.

Based on the company's striving for newer technology within their products It can only be assumed that SKINS is inventing in new research to improve their products.

Processes: The business activities within the company are difficult to measure. But as seen on SKINS website it seems that their online presence is their only communication channel to reach the actual customer.

Organisation: SKINS has a couple of partnerships. Especially partnerships with sport organisations regarding sponsoring but they also had a recent joint venture[11] with one of the biggest suppliers for sport equipment in China. SKINS is going to distribute their products through the already existing channels of Li-Ning and therefore SKINS can enter into the Chinese market easier.

In terms of their internal organisational structure there is only the information about 5 different divisions worldwide. There are no further information. Therefore it only can be assumed that the company is basically well developed internally.

Supply Chain: Additionally the company is relatively limited in terms of their supply. They sell their products through retailers around the world because they do not have their own stores besides their online presence including an online store.

SKINS factories are probably located outside of Australia because there are several places in which the manufacturing costs are relatively low. As a guess there are surely suppliers of the different ingredients included in the SKINS compression garments to send their products to the factories where they are manufactured.

Presence: SKINS presence in the market is fairly high as one of only a couple of companies only focussing on compression garments. But in terms of the distribution of their products to the market there is improvement needed. The company should especially focus on openings of their own stores so they can supply their products through retailers as well as their own shops.

Networking: SKINS network is fairly limited because the company and its customers are only connected by the company’s website and their retailers. The problem in here is that retailers provide different brands and not only SKINS. Therefore SKINS should improve their network by opening their own stores.

SKINS is involved in social media on a fairly high level. Therefore their customers can communicate with each other regarding the SKINS products.

Brand: The company already did a lot of work in terms of brand communication by sponsoring several professional athletes with their compression garments. Therefore the public’s awareness of the product is raised and leads to potential new customers especially of the recreational activity sector. Nevertheless the awareness of the brand varies from country to country.

Next: Competitors