Lululemon debuts sneaker line
Partnering with Athletic Propulsion Labs, Lululemon on Wednesday launched three shoe styles based on two of APL's best-selling sneakers, the Techloom and the Ascend, with colors exclusive to Lululemon, Racked reports.
Lululemon began offering an assortment of male and female footwear styles in 23 Lululemon stores across North America in August.
As competition in the athleisure segment has heated up, Lululemon has worked to expand into men's merchandise and earlier this year invested in Canadian cycling apparel company 7mesh.
Lululemon essentially launched the athleisure trend, with high-performance fabrics for the gym and styles that work outside it as well. CEO Laurent Potdevin last year said the company expects the segment to eventually become over-saturated, and since then the company has worked to expand its appeal.
Even if the athleisure bubble isn't so close to bursting, Lululemon has been forced to respond to increased competition in the space from the likes of Gap's Athleta, mass merchants like Target, the bigger athletic brands like Under Armour and Nike, and Amazon, which unveiled lines of activewear this month. So far, it's working. Lululemon's firm footing with women has challenged Nike and Under Armour, which have lagged with female customers. But its push to appeal to men with athleisure is also besting rivals, according to GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders.
"In successfully pivoting from being a women's brand to one that now appeals to both genders, Lululemon stands in marked contrast to Under Armour, which has seen only limited success in attracting women," Saunders told Retail Dive in an email earlier this year. "This augurs well for the future as we believe Lululemon has much more runway with male shoppers.”
Lululemon is throwing in the towel on its kids line, however, which, though not quite so high-priced as its men's and women's offerings, is still far above what can be found at Gap or Target. "We are not particularly surprised by the decision to streamline Ivivva," Saunders said in June. "While there is some demand for athletic wear for younger girls, the level and frequency of that demand is insufficient to support a network of expensive stores" in a competitive marketplace.
Footwear is yet another avenue for Lululemon to hang on to its dominance in the space. With a 5% year-over-year growth rate, U.S. shoe sales are faring better than other segments of retail. But Amazon, which saw shoe sales rise 35% last year, threatens to upend that market, too.
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