Athleta Aims for Bigger Market
Nancy Green, a 27-year veteran of Gap Inc. was appointed as general manager of Athleta, after serving as executive adviser for Gap's China business, and executive vice president and chief creative officer at Old Navy, at a very critical time for the brand. As they continue to open more store, the moment has been made all the more critical due to the unexpected change at the top for dominant market share leader - Lululemon Athletica Inc. In the wake of the March recall of black Luon yoga pants, which cost Lululemon about $67 million, vaunted chief executive officer Christine Day announced in June she would be stepping down as well as Chief Product Officer Sheree Waterson.
Green told WWD that she had wanted to join Athleta for a long time and that her new post appealed to her because she has a passion to build brands. "It's a perfect time to come into a brand at this level and at the stage it is at, where you can really shape and grow a brand," she said.
Despite her eagerness to build Athleta, Green will have her share of challenges ahead, especially with the bar set so high by Lululemon. But Green isn't scared. When asked about Day's departure from the company she's led for more than five years, Green said, "Everybody was surprised by the news. We have enormous respect and admiration for what Lululemon has done. We obviously wish Christine the best. This is a constantly evolving category that is growing very quickly. It represents a lot of opportunity for us for sure, but this is a big market with plenty of room for multiple competitors."
The main goal of the year is stores. Athleta opened its first store in 2011 aims to have about 60 doors before the year is out. "Learning from these stores is really critical. The focus is on building out the retail side of the business, and bringing this new channel in is one of the biggest priorities that we have now. It has become a fully multichannel brand," said Green. Some upcoming locations are in Austin, Tex.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Raleigh, N.C.; Lynnfield, Mass., and Milwaukee.