- Athleta on Thursday announced a launch into the intimates category with the introduction of its Rituals collection, according to a company press release sent to Retail Dive.
- Rituals, which will be available on Athleta’s website beginning Sept. 20, is based on comfort and enhanced support through its fit, fabric and construction and was wear-tested by over 100 women.
- The collection includes bikini, boy shorts and thong underwear in sizes XXS to 3X and is priced at $16 each or three for $36. An adjustable strap bra is in sizes A to DD, while a T-shirt bra is in sizes B to G. Bras range in price from $59 to $69.
Athleta thinks its audience is ready to shop for underwear.
The retailer said that 15% of its website searches are for the category, which presents a growth opportunity and a way for shoppers to obtain a “first layer.”
“As a customer focused brand, we are consistently engaging with and listening to her needs and know the intimates category is growing,” Felix del Toro, chief product officer for Athleta, said in a statement. “By introducing the Rituals collection, we are inviting even more customers into our brand and giving her an opportunity to build a complete wardrobe at Athleta layer by layer.”
The U.S. intimates market is projected to be a $16.2 billion business in the next four years and is one of the fastest growing apparel categories with a two-year compound annual growth rate of 9%, according to research by Euromonitor and NPD cited by Athleta.
The retailer sold some underwear products in stores and online in 2018, but most of those products stopped selling within a year. Rituals is considered a full launch into the category.
Athleta comes into a product category that is increasingly competitive. Major player Victoria’s Secret is in the middle of a brand image turnaround, which is showing signs of success as it starts to recapture sales previously lost to rivals. DTC players are also making larger moves: Parade recently struck a deal to go into Urban Outfitters stores, period underwear brand Thinx formed a partnership with Walmart to sell its affordable Thinx For All line, and Knix is beginning to open its own brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S.
Athleta has consistently been a solid performer for parent company Gap Inc., and analysts as recently as this spring have questioned if the retailer should spin off from its sister brands.
Yet, it wobbled in the second quarter, with sales up only 1% and comps down 8%. The brand dealt with a “shift in consumer preference from athleisure to occasion and work-based categories as well as modest spring/summer product acceptance challenges,” Gap Inc. said.
“We believe Athleta has tremendous growth potential as it continues to drive brand awareness and establish authority in the active market,” Gap Inc. Interim CEO Bobby Martin said on a call with analysts last week. “However, we are experiencing softness in the near term. We are quickly pivoting and reacting to meet her needs with performance lifestyle products while remaining true to our DNA.”