• Lori Turner

Fit for Athleta

Fit for Athleta by Lori Turner

Clothing has its function. Back in caveman days it served its purpose by insulating and protecting humans from the wind, rain, heat, cold and occasionally from a wild animal bite. Clothing has the same purpose in modern times, minus the wild animal bites, but all of us aren’t running around in the nude. Kudos to anyone that has the confidence to run around nude, but I will stay covered in my stylish clothing, thank you very much. Stylish, well-made clothing is a personal investment. Apparel should make you look good, but it should also provide an overall feeling of confidence. Some people, like myself have made the mistake of impulse buying, which leads to wasteful spending and a dusty filled closet of worthless trendy clothing. Eventually, those bargain shirts and trendy pants end up in a charity bin or in some garbage bag. The bargain hunt might be fun but is it really saving money? The current retail market in America remains precarious. In 2018, many brick and mortar retailers filed for bankruptcy, the most notable and largest being Sears. E-commerce has become enemy number one. Online shopping eliminates overhead costs such as rent, employees and all the other expenses that come along with having a stand-alone store. This is why the cost of your favorite sweater is cheaper online. Plus, it gets delivered to your front door at your convenience. What exactly keeps a brick and mortar store open in such volatile times? It depends on what they have to offer. Does it fulfill a niche market? Is the product in demand? Is the product relevant to the time? One such women’s retailer that is very successful and has stayed relevant since 1998 is Athleta. After visiting a store and speaking with the employees I have to admit: Athleta was a better “fit,” not only for my body, but for my ideology.

photo by Lori Turner

In 1998, Scott Kerslake, an avid cyclist and surfer, was listening to women friends discuss the lack of high-end, quality exercise apparel for women. Tights, leotards and leg warmers were great if you were a ballerina, but women who preferred intense sports such as running, hiking, cycling, soccer and basketball were limited to old clothing or shopping in the men’s department. Nike was the first retailer to take a chance on women, but the choices were sparse and the color schemes were white, gray or black. Kerslake, also a former investment banker, recognized there was a demand and that no one was selling high performance, quality women’s workout apparel. He acquired $700,000 in capital and soon Athleta catalogs were arriving in mailboxes across America. The catalog featured women’s clothing rooted in cycling and running, and showcased items from popular brands such as Adidas and Patagonia. It was a success year after year.

Kerslake wanted his company to embody the spirit of women, and came up with the mantra of, “The Power of She”. The merchandise consisted of bright colors, pretty patterns, quality fabrics and fits for all women of shapes and sizes. It completely changed the fitness apparel game for women and continues to utilize the opinions of professional women athletes to ensure it stays on track with demands of loyal customers. In 2008, Gap Inc. pursued Athleta’s success and purchased it for $150,000 million. It was a gutsy move. New ownership usually means new changes, new ideas, cost saving analysis and sometimes huge mistakes that can chase off customers. Gap Inc. has continued the integrity and spirit of the Athleta woman, changing very little and staying relevant, but also offering more. Gap Inc. has opened many stand-alone Athleta stores in ritzy malls, which has increased profits. Women still desire to see, feel and try on clothing, which is very difficult to do through a computer screen. Athleta generates approximately $750,000 in revenue each year: not bad for an E-Commerce dominated retail market. Way to go!

After busting a seam in a cheap but new pair of leggings in my Hot Booty Pilates class, I thought it was time I invest in a few quality fitness clothing items that performed well during intense, sweaty workouts. Athleta was on my mind ever since I asked women at the yoga studio where they shop for quality clothing. Purchasing high-end athletic apparel, or any designer pieces for that matter, is a hefty investment for this cheapo shopper. I like to save money, but after my leggings malfunction and an interesting job interview with Athleta’s direct competitor, Lululemon Athletica, I started to take a closer look to see why so many of my friends were willing to spend more.

Athleta at The District at Green Valley Ranch photo by Lori Turner

It was fall time when I visited the Athleta store at The District Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, Nevada. The perfectly folded, hung displays of clothing in color tones of cream, blue, and orange made for a nice fall vibe. The store was clean and modern with a rustic flare of bamboo floors and warm wood accents. I was cheerfully greeted by a salesperson. There was no pressure as I went along every rack and table touching everything and wishing I could buy the entire store. The manager introduced herself and we had a conversation. I confessed I had interviewed with Lululemon and was not selected as one of their Brand Ambassadors, as I felt I didn’t fit their image. “Athleta is all inclusive and welcomes women of all ages, shapes and sizes.” She said. I learned a few more interesting facts that I was unaware of, such as that the Athleta Girl’s line was created so that moms and daughters could shop together. She continued by explaining they are very proud of becoming a certified B Corporation. B Corporations are for-profit businesses recognized for their positive impact on society and the environment. Sixty percent of the clothing sold in the stores are made from recycled materials such as nylon, plastic bottles, and polyester. Organic cottons are utilized, along with efficient dying and sewing techniques. I was really impressed. Now I could see why my friends and fitness buddies chose to wear Athleta instead of questionably sewn, ill fitting, cheap leggings.

People still desire to shop at a location, try things on, purchase and walk out of a store with a bag in hand. Conservation, preservation, and sustainability continues to be a societal concern and keeps gaining momentum. Eventually all businesses will have to adopt the B Corp philosophy: It is the future. While other trendy shops and vendors come and go, I have no doubt that Athleta will stay strong in the coming years, and will keep competing with e-commerce business. Although I didn’t leave with a bag in my hand, I leave it to Santa Claus for cash or a gift card. Athleta is a better “fit” for my body and my ideology.

For more awesome information on Athleta’s B Corp status please visit this link: https://corporate.gapinc.com/en-us/articles/2019/04/60-percent-of-athleta-s-materials-are-now-made-fro