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Athleta opens two New York stores this summer

Athleta opens in New York

Athleta's San Francisco flagship (photo: Athleta Facebook)

 

Athleta, the California-based fitness fashion brand owned by Gap Inc., is debuting two locations in New York City this summer on the Upper West and East Sides. (Sorry, downtown girls.)

The popular catalog- and web-based company just opened its first brick-and-mortar store this January in San Francisco (after testing a smaller shop in Marin County). Anyone who shops for yoga pants or bathing suits that won’t fall down knows Athleta has been revving up its reputation as a serious fitness-apparel contender. But is the brand ready for the serious New York fitness scene—and the competition of five Lululemon stores?

From a business perspective, the expansion to New York City seems strategically right on, says Caroline Limpert, a former Victoria’s Secret executive and co-founder of Fitist.com, a new boutique fitness and wellness site, launching in May. “Obviously the amount of money that people spend on fitness in the top zip codes of New York is enormous,” she says.

Athleta San Francisco

New Yorkers will soon get the touch-feel-and-try-on experience of an Athleta store (photo: Athleta Facebook)

Manhattanites are no stranger to Athleta and apparently have been ordering signature Kickbooty yoga pants by the buttload. “New York City is a very strong sales market for us,” says Callie Canfield, PR and Retail Marketing Manager, so the numbers supported the decision to open two stores here.

Athleta’s price point is also recognizably lower than Lululemon: Athleta Kickbooty pants cost $79 to Lululemon’s $98 Groove pants. But will that make a difference to devoted Luluheads who’d rather shell out $20 more for Luon (Lululemon’s house fabric) and the lifestyle?

Building a relationship with the fitness community in New York like Lululemon has will be a huge obstacle for Athleta, Limpert predicts. “You can’t corporately mimic Lululemon’s community store feel—it’s grass roots and authentic. I was part of the team that launched Victoria Secret Sport and we tried.”

But perhaps the effort is a necessary one?

With the new stores Canfield says Athleta is considering all the things that are important to New Yorkers, like hosting yoga classes and run clubs, as well as promoting top local teachers. “We will want our stores to feel like part of the community,” says Canfield. The company already hosts yoga classes in its San Fran store.

While Lululemon has its fitness ambassadors comprised of local yogis and boutique studio instructors or owners, each year Athleta selects a handful of featured female athletes, some of whom serve as models for the catalog. The company is also a generous event sponsor, underwriting the recent More/Fitness Women’s Half-Marathon and the Self Workout in the Park in May. Given the growing numbers of wellness-obsessed New Yorkers, we suspect there are enough city yogis and athletes to keep both companies in business. —Melisse Gelula

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  1. April 21st, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Upper East — yay! I am extremely excited for Athleta to open. I am pretty sure I walked right past one in Seattle but never did go in, and I am dying to try on their clothes. I also love the idea of them hosting classes. I will be in the new location as soon as it opens to check it out!

  2. April 21st, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I love the fact that Athleta carries just about all of their clothing in tall sizes in their catalog. It’s really great to have active-wear that fits my long frame well! Hopefully these tall sizes will be available in the store as well! While the Gap has a lot of tall clothing available through their website, very little is sold at their retail locations. I’d love to be able to try on some of the tall athletic-ware I’ve been too afraid to order. At the very least, I’ll be happy to be able to do returns of online orders to the store.

  3. April 21st, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I think this is great news and am totally looking forward to being able to see Athleta wear in person…there is plenty of room in NYC for both Lulu and Athleta!

  4. April 21st, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with Maggie. I have always wanted to order from Athleta but I prefer to try on clothes, and make sure I like the fit… otherwise, you have to go through the expense and inconvenience of returning the item.

  5. April 21st, 2011 at 10:28 am

    This is great news! Since I’ve discovered Athleta I thought it was too bad that they didn’t have a store in NYC and was wondering if they would ever open one. I am excited! I’ve ordered things from them online and loved them. While their web return process is fairly easy and the customer service is excellent, it will be so much better to have a local store. Lululemon is nice but just way too expensive.

  6. April 22nd, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Athleta has THE best bathing suits. They are stylish, functional, and cover my butt. I have been concerned over the quality of some of their clothing since Gap bought them, so while I still buy Athleta I’m not quite as in love as I once was. They have a great return policy, though, so it’s easy to shop with them. With Lulu, the quality is there, with attention to each stitch. Lulu has less variety compared to Athleta, so I’m sure there’s room for both in NY and everywhere.

  7. April 22nd, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    As one of Athleta’s 2011 featured athletes, I am psyched for the opening of these NYC stores. The clothes are fantastic, well fitting, comfortable, and affordable. It will be great to be able to try everything on rather than catalogue shopping!

  8. April 23rd, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I like lululemon but it’s too pricey for the quality. A $100 pair of pants shouldn’t pill. Hopefully having to share the yoga market will fire up a bit of friendly competition resulting in better product and more reasonable prices across the board!

  9. April 24th, 2011 at 4:13 am

    I have three pairs of Athlet’s Kickbooty pants that I use for yoga,pilates, and running and I couldn’t be happier with them. I’ve tried on a pair of Lulu’s but they just didn’t fit me the same and were very overpriced! I’m so looking forward to Athleta’s NYC stores opening, it’s about time!!

  10. April 25th, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    I am so excited about Altheta’s New York City Stores Opening !!! I love Athleta, especially their bathing suits because they’re not skimpy and gives you enough coverage. Their skorts are awesome too..
    I can’t wait for the store opening. Yay !!

  11. May 18th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    OMG! JOY! This was published on April 21 and I completely missed it. So exciting.I cant wait for summer. :D

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  14. July 22nd, 2011 at 10:32 am

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  17. September 4th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

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  18. June 28th, 2013 at 5:22 pm

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  19. September 8th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

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