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Gap to open two Athleta stores in Southland

The apparel giant plans for retail locations of its fledgling women's fitness apparel chain this fall at the Grove shopping center in L.A.'s Fairfax district and at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

May 24, 2011|By Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times

Gap Inc. is bringing Athleta, its fledgling women's fitness apparel chain, to Southern California.

The San Francisco apparel giant, which struggled with weak first-quarter sales at its Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands, said it will open two Athleta stores in the Southland this fall, at the Grove shopping center in L.A.'s Fairfax district and at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Two New York stores are slated to open in the summer.

Athleta, acquired by Gap for $150 million in 2008, sells yoga clothing, running gear, swimwear, shoes and other fitness merchandise. It opened its first two retail locations in the last year, both in Northern California; previously, Athleta products were available only online and through catalog.

"We believe the channels are all very complementary to each other, but retail stores give you access to a larger base," said Scott Key, senior vice president of Petaluma, Calif.-based Athleta. "The ability to go touch and feel it inside of a store is really important to the buying process."

The company plans to open 50 Athleta stores by 2013 and is scouting potential locations in traditional malls, street-level areas and open-air centers.

So far, the company has been pleased with the existing stores' performance, Key said. He noted that in the markets where stores have opened, total Athleta sales have quadrupled.

Last week, Gap reported disappointing first-quarter results that it blamed on soaring costs. The company said profit fell 23% to $233 million and sales fell 1% to $3.3 billion, compared with the year-earlier period.

andrea.chang@latimes.com

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