Sainsbury’s has joined forces with American sportswear business Russell Athletic as it makes a play for the growing athleisure market.

The grocer started selling 72 SKUs across the menswear, womenswear and men’s accessories categories through its Tu clothing website this morning.

It marks the first time that female shoppers have been able to purchase branded clothing from Sainsbury’s.

The supermarket giant’s only previous clothing partnership, with leisurewear brand Admiral, consisted solely of menswear ranges.

Sainsbury’s said the partnership has recorded “strong growth” since its launch in August 2015.

Admiral sales have rocketed 155% compared with the initial launch, with the collection now available in 170 Sainsbury’s stores.

Athleisure trend

Sainsbury’s said the move to add Russell Athletic – a brand inspired by university and college sports – to its clothing proposition was part of its ongoing strategy “to offer customers choice across different channels.”

It comes as the trend for wearing leisure and sportswear for everyday activities continues to grow and sales have surged 42% over the past seven years.

The market is now worth £7bn in the UK and £204bn worldwide, according to research from Morgan Stanley.

Market share

Sainsbury’s commercial director James Brown said: “Sainsbury’s clothing business is quickly becoming a destination fashion brand, growing strongly over recent years and continuing to gain market share.

“Through working with brands we are able to offer our customers an even greater choice alongside our popular Tu range.

“Russell Athletic shares our approach to great quality at fantastic value and we are delighted to be able to offer our customers its iconic sportswear.”

Sainsbury’s is the UK’s sixth biggest clothing retailer by sales volumes and tenth biggest by value.