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Gap-Owned Athleta Opens 2nd Canadian Storefront with More Planned [Photos]

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Athleta, part of San Francisco-based Gap Inc., has opened a new 4,800-square-foot retail store at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto as the retailer continues to expand its footprint into Canada.

Jennifer Steichen, Vice President Stores & Operations, Athleta, said the company is committed to growing its business in Canada, introducing its brand to more Canadian women and building a community of empowered women and girls in the country.

“As part of our strategic growth plan to reach $2 billion in net sales by 2023, Athleta is investing in new access points to reach new customers and expand our community of empowered women and girls,” she said.

Athleta at Yorkdale Shopping Centre (Photo courtesy of Athleta // Christine Lim Photography)

“We know this strategy is working, with early results from e-commerce and Vancouver launches, showing high in-store traffic, large order sizes and strong demand for our versatile lifestyle collection. These strong indicators of success underscore our continued commitment to prioritizing growth in the Canadian market. Additionally, being part of Gap Inc. portfolio allows us to leverage our sister brands’ existing infrastructure and platforms, like our Distribution Centre in Ontario, including existing customer and market information, which makes it easier and more cost efficient to launch, rather than starting from scratch.”

The new Yorkdale store is Athleta’s second company-operated Canadian location opened over the past two months as the company first expanded into Canada with the launch of e-commerce in August, followed by the debut of its first company-operated store outside of the United States in September at Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver, British Columbia.

Steichen said the company doesn’t have any other specific new openings to announce currently.

“We are thrilled to build on Athleta’s success in Vancouver with the opening of our new Yorkdale store, bringing our personalized shopping experience and unique community-building activations to the greater Toronto area,” she said. “The strength of the Gap Inc. portfolio has uniquely positioned Athleta for success in the Canadian market, allowing us to leverage our sister brands’ existing insights, platforms, and infrastructure across the region.

“From the success of our sister brands’ Yorkdale business, to the success of our brands e-commerce and Vancouver launches showing high in-store traffic, large order sizes and strong demand for our versatile lifestyle collection, opening in Toronto at Yorkdale was a natural next step in our Canadian business growth strategy.”

Athleta’s new Yorkdale store features 3,000 square feet of dedicated retail space, showcasing the brand’s full selection of versatile, on-trend performance lifestyle products, including its Athleta Girl and sleep collections. The store will also feature size-inclusive mannequins and inclusive sizing in more than 500 styles ranging from XXS-3X, in-store styling appointments, free alterations and wellness-focused community events.

In support of the brand’s commitment to the empowerment of women and girls, Athleta is partnering with the Toronto Six hockey team, Canada’s only women’s professional sports team, marking the team’s largest sponsorship to date.

Image: Toronto Six Hockey

Founded in 1998, Athleta integrates performance and technical features across its collection to support women across their entire lifestyle – from yoga and training to travel and sleep. In 2016, it launched Athleta Girl, mirroring its signature performance in styles for the next generation, and its iconic “Power of She” campaign, aimed at creating a community of women and girls fueled by the core belief that alone we are strong, but united we thrive. Today, Athleta apparel is available at more than 200 retail stores across the U.S, and the recent addition of the two stores in Canada.

“Athleta is a female led, values and purpose-driven performance lifestyle brand with a mission of empowering a community of active women and girls. Athleta is a certified B Corp, and today, over 70 per cent of Athleta product is made from sustainable materials,” said Steichen.

“As a customer-led organization, we have invested in getting to know our Canadian customer well—and as she is getting to know us, she is enthusiastically embracing the brand. We believe the Canadian Plus market has historically been underserved. We are excited to give women in Canada a choice when it comes to size-inclusive performance lifestyle products that help her reach her full potential. Our extended sizing (XXS-3X) is available in 500 styles online and in store.

“Also, the strength of the Gap Inc. portfolio has uniquely positioned Athleta for success in the market, allowing us to leverage our sister brands’ existing insights, platforms, and infrastructure, like our Distribution Centre in Ontario, for a more seamless and cost-effective entry into new markets across the country. Athleta’s key differentiators are our breadth of inclusive sizing, versatile range of product, our values, and being a women and girls only brand.”

The retailer said stores remain an important part of the customer journey and the company is on track to open 20 to 30 additional stores by the end of 2021.

“As part of our strategic growth plan, Athleta is investing in new access points to reach new customers and expand our community of empowered women and girls,” said Mary Beth Laughton, president and CEO, Athleta. “We know Canadian women are engaging with our brand, with results showing high in-store traffic and strong demand for our versatile lifestyle product since launching e-commerce and our first store earlier this year.  This underscores our continued commitment to prioritizing growth in the Canadian market.”

Kyle Andrew, Chief Brand Officer, Athleta, said the company was inspired by the Toronto Six, Canada’s only professional women’s sports team –  the team’s dedication, their vision of a platform for gender equity in sports and beyond and creating opportunity for the next generation of athletes on and off the ice.

“Our mission at the Toronto Six is to drive change for women in professional sports by fostering an environment where our players are supported holistically as players and role models for the community.  Athleta and the Toronto Six share the same values rooted in empowering women and girls at the community level, and we could not be more excited to partner with them,” said Digit Murphy, President, Toronto Six.  “We are thrilled to include the Athleta logo on our team jerseys and look forward to a prosperous season with Athleta by our side.”

MB Laughton, President and CEO of Athleta, Kyle Andrew, Chief Brand Officer, Athleta, Jennifer Steichen, Vice President Stores & Operations, Athleta, Shannon Damen, Vice President, Finance, Athleta, Yolanda Sander, VP Legal, Athleta are joined by Toronto Six President, Digit Murphy, Toronto Six players, Saroya Tinker and Taylor Woods, and Jane McKenna, MPP, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, at the grand opening of Athleta Yorkdale location.
MB Laughton, President and CEO of Athleta, Kyle Andrew, Chief Brand Officer, Athleta, Jennifer Steichen, Vice President Stores & Operations, Athleta, Shannon Damen, Vice President, Finance, Athleta, Yolanda Sander, VP Legal, Athleta are joined by Toronto Six President, Digit Murphy, Toronto Six players, Saroya Tinker and Taylor Woods, and Jane McKenna, MPP, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, at the grand opening of Athleta Yorkdale location.

Steichen said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has provided its teams an opportunity to be nimble and quickly pivot.

“We learned that she wanted clothing that was comfortable, but still stylish and presentable. From a product standpoint, we leaned in and added more “cozy” products, knowing she’s spending more time at home, or working from home,” she said.

“A key driver of Athleta’s growth is our digital omni-channel strategy, which is focused on building loyalty, engagement, and a community of empowered women. We know our customers are bouncing back and forth constantly between the digital and physical worlds and want options when it comes to how and when they shop with us, which is why we have created a seamless, personalized journey for them across all our brand touchpoints.

We are not thinking about single channels in isolation, but her full customer journey with Athleta.

“We believe this approach will continue to be a strong driver of customer loyalty and lifetime value for Athleta. Brands delivering this seamless, personalized journey across multiple channels will continue to win over loyal customers and strong business results in this ever-changing retail environment.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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