Athleta's sibling brand, Hill City, is opening up a pop-up shop with a 12-month lease in Hayes Valley, a neighborhood in San Francisco, sometime in mid-to-late October, a spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email. The news was first reported by Fortune.
According to emailed comments from Noah Palmer, head of Hill City, the pop-up is the first physical location for the brand, and will include products available for purchase. The brand is also launching a shoppable mobile truck, which "will serve to increase awareness at lifestyle and active events, such as races," Palmer said.
Hill City will also make products available for purchase at seven Athleta stores starting late October and will start testing its products at other wholesale partners. When the brand launched last year, 50 Athleta stores housed a small assortment of Hill City products, but Palmer noted that they were "for brand awareness and display purposes only" and this time, consumers will be able to buy the products.
Hill City's older sister, Athleta, has made a name for itself in the athleisure space alongside competitors like Lululemon and Outdoor Voices.
As a women-focused brand, CMO Sheila Shekar Pollak told Retail Dive earlier this year that the decision to create a separate, male brand was very intentional, so Athleta could continue to be a brand that "uniquely delivers for women and girls."
At the same time, the company had noticed interest in a men's offering from shoppers of the brand. In some ways, Hill City's planned entrance in seven Athleta stores makes sense for that reason: to take advantage of a customer base that has already expressed interest in that category.
"The Athleta capsules and wholesale partnerships are to amplify our growth in the second year," Palmer said, noting that at launch, customers expressed interest in being able to purchase at the Athleta stores in which Hill City was displayed. "The wholesale partnerships are tests to raise awareness to new customers in diverse range of activities and markets."
Palmer wouldn't give a firm answer on whether or not Hill City had plans to open its own permanent locations in the future, saying it was "to be determined," but the pop-up store is the first step in testing what works for the brand in a physical space.
In recent years, Athleta has been a bright spot for Gap, Inc. and an ever more important one as Old Navy prepares to spin off from its parent company, leaving Hill City and Athleta with the rest of Gap, Inc.'s brands. If Hill City grows to be as popular as its sibling brand, it could prove another growth engine for the company's weaker-performing brands to lean upon.