While Athleta remains its chain most focused on the athleisure opportunity, Gap Inc. officials see opportunities in the active space for all its chains.
Currently, the biggest potential is being seen at Old Navy, which recently launched an advertising campaign focused on establishing greater credibility in the activewear category.
“We are a growing active really fast and customers love it,” Stefan Larsson, global president at Old Navy, told analysts last week at Gap Inc’s annual investor meeting. “And we can offer a comparable product to the most aspirational brands at an ‘Old Navy value’ and for the whole family. We have it even for toddler and it performs really, really well.”
Active was touted at the meeting as one of Old Navy’s five “growth accelerators,” along with kids’, men’s, international and online.
With a message of “Built for Play,” the new advertising campaign features men, women and children running, weightlifting and boxing, as well as playing Frisbee and volleyball. Featuring brighter colors and action phrases like “clutch,” “no guts no glory” and “fierce,” the active range focuses on running, training and yoga and includes performance features such as “go-dry” moisture-wicking technology.
Old Navy first introduced the active line and sub-brand positioning with a spot that broke in April. Jill Stanton, former global apparel GM/CVP at Nike, was hired in 2012 to guide Old Navy's activewear effort. She is now EVP product, Old Navy.
Asked about the strength of the overall activewear trend with many retailers pursuing the opportunity, Art Peck, Gap Inc.’s CEO, noted that the industry can simultaneously attack a trend and “then all of a sudden active wear isn't there anymore and it's a trend that's over.” But he also said active continues to resonate with Old Navy’s customers. Said Peck, “We are building it responsibly, aggressively, obviously inside of Old Navy; it's just really come into it for the whole family.”
Regarding Athleta, Peck said Gap Inc. remains “very bullish” on the women’s fitness chain.
“We're very, very confident about the runway in front of the Athleta business because that's a lifestyle business and how she lives her life, and the way she's engaged that brand,” he said.
Athleta also has seen a strong early response to Derek Lam 10 Crosby, its first designer capsule collection done in collaboration with the Gap Inc.’s Intermix chain’s team. Athleta ended 2014 at 101 locations and plans to open another 20 this year.
The flagship Gap chain already has a fully developed active collection with GapFit. But Gap Inc. announced last week that it planned to 175 Gap stores, primarily in North America, which will still leave it with 800 in the U.S. and Canada.
Banana Republic has no plans to launch an active line like Old Navy but Andi Owen, global president, Banana Republic, said the more-upscale chain is adding “active elements kind of pulled through our assortments.”
Overall, Peck believes active is “really a trend that has legs. And it really has become not just active, but part of her ready-to-wear wardrobe that she goes to for certain dressing occasions.”
Peck adds, “So again, we're not going to get reckless about it, and overdo it, but we are going to feed it pretty aggressively and ride it as much as we can.”