The Brick-and-Mortar Battle to Become the Next Lululemon
It's no secret that women's fitness fashion is taking off faster than a treadmill sprint, with activewear e-commerce gaining a bigger presence, indie athleisure labels taking off, and new and exciting workout looks being created every day. Even the CEO of Levis is (rightly) concerned that we've all abandoned denim for wicking leggings.
But until a few years ago, Lululemon still seriously dominated the brick-and-mortar market, with a store in every major shopping area and a pair of black Wunder Unders on every active woman in the country (and, of course, Canada).
Now, a slew of new and growing brands are racing to set up shops across the United States, competing for shoppers who run, do yoga, and brunch in their sports bra-crop tops. (Case in point: Sweaty Betty, Lole, and Athleta have all opened stores in New York City's key shopping area of Soho within the past two years, where Lululemon was once the main activewear destination for women.)
To give you the lay of the legging landscape, we pulled together everything you need to know about the big deal brick-and-mortar plans of five major players in the women's athleisure space, and the stores they're opening from Malibu to Greenwich, CT—and near you. —Jamie McKillop
Athleta was born and bred in the California Bay Area with a strong catalog business and was acquired by Gap in 2008. Its first brick-and-mortar store opened in Mill Valley in 2010, with the company headquarters nearby in Petaluma. Now, the fitness fashion megabrand has evolved into an outfitter with an everything-the-active-girl-needs selection, and has a staggering 112 stores across the country, including a glamorous one in New York City's Soho that opened on August 5. At least five more stores will open by the end of 2015, with exact locations to be announced.
The Style: Sporty and sophisticated collections with an emphasis on high performance—and a pioneering designer collab with Derek Lam 10 Crosby.
International brand Lole is from Montreal, where the first store opened in October 2010. The company has created and maintained strong relationships with big-deal yogis like Colleen Saidman Yee and Elena Brower and hosts the White Tour large-scale event around the world each year.
There are now 46 stores total across the world, including NYC's Soho and Paris, France, with plans for an additional 15 to 25 locations per year over the next five years in existing and new markets.
The Style: Feminine and breezy with a dash of European flair.
Lorna Jane, created by namesake founder Lorna Jane Clarkson, is like the Lululemon of Australia, with a huge presence that includes more than 150 locations. The brand opened its first US store in Malibu in 2012, and there are now 41 Lorna Jane stores in the US, mainly in malls and shopping centers along the West Coast. Lorna Jane has plans for a store in Manhattan Beach, CA, this month, and Honolulu, Hawaii, in November.
The Style: Bright and bold for the sexy color-loving set.
(Photo: Lorna Jane)
Sweaty Betty's first brick-and-mortar opened in London's Notting Hill in 1998, and there are 42 stores total in the United Kingdom, where the brand is an incredibly popular household name. After arriving stateside with stores in Soho in New York City and Greenwich, CT in 2013, the company has since expanded to five locations on the East Coast. And this February, it received a major growth investment to expand its US presence, which the company says will allow it to open stores in Venice, California, and potentially NYC's Upper East Side.
The Style: Highly stylized and chic with flattering feminine cuts.
(Photo: Sweaty Betty)
The first Yogasmoga location opened as recently as September 2014 in Greenwich, CT, followed by Brentwood, CA, in November 2014, and a West Coast flagship in Beverly Hills in July 2015. On the East Coast, the brand currently has a pop-up in New York City through September 10 and will open stores in Boston, MA, Short Hills, NJ, and Westchester, NY soon. Its California expansion is even bigger, with locations coming to places like Newport Beach's Fashion Island, San Diego's La Jolla Village, Malibu Country Mart, and San Francisco's Union Square, for a total of 12 total stores by the end of 2015.
They anticipate another 25 stores by the end of 2016, including the first true NYC location, and the crazy speed of growth can be attributed to a recent round of funding that valued the company at a staggering $74 million.
The Style: Simple and clean styling with an emphasis on yoga wear.
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