Wilson Sporting Goods, the company known for sports equipment like basketballs and tennis rackets, is expanding its influence with the launch of its first lifestyle apparel collection, the brand said in details emailed to Retail Dive.
Wilson Sportswear is available in the U.S. and China, and new items will drop biweekly, according to a company press release. The first collection, dubbed The Starting Lineup, includes products like training shorts, joggers, baseball tees and sweatshirts.
Wilson is also planning to open its first stores in some key markets later this year, including Chicago, New York, Beijing and Shanghai. The stores will sell both sports equipment and the new lifestyle apparel line.
As Wilson itself said, the company is "making a play from court to everyday life" with the debut of its lifestyle apparel collection.
It's a move that positions the traditionally equipment-focused company to take advantage of the ever-rising athleisure trend. Athleisure was growing before the pandemic, but the health crisis gave it another boost as consumers worked from home and didn't need much more than comfortable clothing to get by.
That's led to a surge of retailers entering the market or refining their approach to try and grab a slice, including Kohl's, L.L. Bean, J.C. Penney and DTC brand Thinx. Wilson sees the expansion in particular as an "evolution of Wilson into its next phase as a household athletic lifestyle brand." In addition to biweekly drops, the company is also planning collaborations around "key moments in sport culture" and working with a network of athletes on future launches.
Not only does the move position Wilson in the athleisure space, but the brand is also making a play to sell more through its DTC channels. Wilson Sportswear is only available on the company's own website in the U.S. and comes alongside the promise of Wilson-branded retail stores opening later this year. In China, the line is also available via WeChat and "other leading brand sites." It's a decision that gives Wilson growth opportunities outside the wholesale partners it's known to sell through, which include a wide variety of retailers, from Dick's Sporting Goods to specialty golf stores and tennis clubs.
"For more than a century, Wilson has been designing equipment to the specifications required by the world's greatest athletes," Gordon Devin, president of Wilson Sportswear, said in a statement. "We are excited to extend our craftsmanship, history and heritage to apparel. As athletes continue to redefine themselves, Wilson is redefining the athletes' uniform, coupling the premium performance expected from Wilson with fresh styles inspired by athletes."