Manhattan’s Upper West Side welcomed it’s very first Athleta store this week (just a few blocks up from Lululemon), and the Upper East Side gets its very own as well. Fancy! If you didn’t know, Athleta a San Francisco based company was snapped up by Gap, Inc. just about 3 years ago and has been gearing up to enter the physical retail market in NY since then.
We don’t know if employees are required to set goals, attend Landmark Forum-esque retreats, subscribe to plastered manifestos or appear impossibly jolly 24/7, but we can tell you the prices are, well, only slightly lower than your favorite Lululemon butt-snuggers. You can nab a pair of yoga capris for about $50, but the other pants are the market usual (we use that term loosely, but it’s true, unfortunately) of about $70 and up. But Athleta isn’t just going for yogis, they’re catering to the entire fitness schema like running, hiking, swimming, gymming also know as erranding, hanging out, sometimes wearing to the office on casual Fridays.
This isn’t Old Navy sucker punching, this is real business. In-store hemming, some kind of futuristic water-resistant skinny jeans, and the insistence that all the clothes are designed by female athletes for women sounds enticing, but probably the biggest selling point for Athleta is that they are the non-lulu. So far there hasn’t been such a major brand push as an alternative to the Lululemon culture and monopoly, to carve their own way into the $31 billion womens active wear market, until now. Planning to open 50 stores by 2013, we’d say Athleta is prepping to be a big player.
We think people will dig the option. A store launch campaign that benefited Bent On Learning doesn’t hurt either. Keep an eye out for the free yoga. You heard it here first.
We actually think there’s room for both, or all – there are “active wear” brands sprouting up every day – but there’s more riding on this, like millions of dollars, and womens lifestyles, for goodness sake and like, the stock market. crikey! Oh man, we just had a vision of the future: every woman wandering around the streets of NY in their yoga leggings, flesh wrapped up in stretchy curve-hugging material accessorized with fanny packs and a blank stare. Stepford Wives of the active wear generation. *shudder*