Gap-Owned Athleta Expands to CF Toronto Eaton Centre with Plans for More Stores in Canada [Interview]

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Athleta, part of the San Francisco based Gap Inc, has opened a new location at CF Toronto Eaton Centre today. The 2,831 square foot retail space will be its eighth location and has plans to open four more stores this year. Athleta is a women and girls-only brand and has been steadily growing since launching its first Canadian store in 2021. 

“Designed for women, by women, the brand was built on the premise that what unites active women and girls is stronger than any obstacles in their way, and sport and fitness create confidence, courage, and powerful bonds,” says Jenelle Sheridan, the VP and GM of Athleta Canada. “Our Canadian customers have gravitated towards Athleta’s wide offerings of differentiated performance lifestyle products. We are committed to growing our Canadian store fleet and are continuing to explore additional locations in the country.” 

Athleta at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Last year, Athleta launched five new stores – the last one opening at 1051 Robson Street in Vancouver. In 2023, Athleta has four new locations planned with more announcements of new stores on the way. The new Athleta store in the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, will be along with other athletic brands such as lululemon and recently-announced Alo – but brings a new variety to athletic wear. 

“Right now, in the same wing in the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, there is going to be lululemon, Athleta, and Alo all in the same block – which will be interesting. One of the things that is interesting about Athleta is that it is a B corp and I think that is an important piece of how it is different and its mission. Also, being sustainable and purpose-driven is going to help Athleta stand out from the other two brands,” says Lisa Hutcheson, Retail Strategist and Managing Partner of Toronto-based J.C. Williams Group. 

Hutcheson also said Athleta offers a different variety of products, such as streetwear clothing, and that will help Athleta stand out and will be an important factor for success.

Grand Opening of Athleta at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Christine Lim / Athleta)
Athleta at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Athleta was founded in 1998 and has a “purpose-driven brand with a powerful mission to empower women and girls to realize their limitless potential. Athleta stores highlight the brand’s full section of versatile, on-trend performance lifestyle products for women and girls,” says Sheridan. 

Athleta offers over 200 styles and has inclusive sizing as consumers can find sizes from XS to 3X. The brand also provides in-store styling appointments, free alterations, and wellness focused community events. Consumers can find a variety of collections including brands from Allyson Felix, Alicia Keys, and Simone Biles, and can find a variety of products that match every need. 

“A certified B corporation, Athleta is a performance lifestyle brand with a mission of empowering a community of active women and girls. Athleta’s versatile premium performance lifestyle apparel is designed by women for women with inclusivity at its core. 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,” says Sheridan. 

Athleta at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Christine Lim / Athleta)

To further strengthen its mission of empowering women and girls, Athleta has “increased partnership campaigns with the Toronto Six Women’s professional hockey team,” and in 2016, Athleta Girl was launched. In addition, Simone Biles, an American Gymnast, is the spokesperson for Athleta and switched from Nike because Athleta was more aligned with her values, Hutcheson said. 

“Simone Biles is the spokesperson for Athleta, and it was kind of interesting hearing her talk about how she had been with Nike and then moved to Athleta and how it was more aligned with her in terms of what she stood for and the focus on health, wellness, and active living. So I thought that was interesting. ”

Hutcheson said Athleta needs to get consumers to understand how they are different by talking about its sustainability and really drive home about being a purpose driven company. Athleta is known to focus on women’s health, wellness, and active living but it is also focused on inclusivity and body positivity. 

Image: Saroya Tinker (Toronto Six Hockey)

Four new Athleta locations will be opening in Canada in the Spring/Summer of 2023, and Hutcheson says they will be successful in Canada. 

  • CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa, Ontario 
  • CF Market Mall in Calgary, Alberta 
  • CF Masonville Place in London, Ontario 
  • Upper Canada Mall, Newmarket 

“Athleta is stylish and still technical and being able to focus on both are very important to the consumers. I think they really need to draw on what their values of sustainability are, inclusivity, and body positivity – which is a big thing for Athleta. The other thing Athleta has going for it, is they have the resale element as well as the loyalty program that taps into all the Gap brands. I do think Athleta has the ability to be successful by continuing to ensure people understand how they are different from other athletic brands,” says Hutcheson.  

Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala, based in Toronto, is a new Journalist to Retail Insider. She has experience writing for local newspapers and also internationally for Helsinki Times while she lived in Finland. Shelby holds a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree from the University of King’s College and a Social Work degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

2 COMMENTS

  1. It’s disappointing they’ve yet to open a store in Montreal especially with Decathlon and Lululemon in Eaton’s Centre and La Cordée opening in the mall next door.

    • Hopefully Athleta expands into the Montreal market. The only thing possibly holding it back is Quebec French language laws.

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