The struggling apparel retailer is hoping to reinvigorate its brand with Hill City, launching in mid-October, which is informed by crowdsourced data and will be sold primarily online in a bid to meet consumer demand

For the first time in over 10 years, Gap Inc. is introducing a new brand. Called Hill City, the athleisure line for men is ostensibly a sister brand of its line for women, Athleta. While it will officially launch with online availability next month, approximately 50 Athleta stores will also feature pieces from the collection, which includes performance shirts, running pants and coats that range from $38 to $148.

The launch is just one bid that the formerly influential retailer, whose shares fell 20% last year, is making to regain its footing in the market. Jeff Kirwan, former CEO, stepped down without a successor in February, and the brand’s popularity has steadily waned in recent years due to a mix of factors, including the growing popularity of low-cost, “fast-fashion” retailers like Forever 21 and safe, bland styles that have failed to resonate with customers. It closed around 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores in 2017 due to poor sales, and shifted its focus to stronger performers Old Navy and Athleta.

Hill City is the second attempt at a primarily web-based brand for Gap Inc.—Piperlime, its shoes and accessories line, launched in 2006, and was shut down in 2016 after bringing in less than 1% of the company’s revenue. This time around, to help glean further insight into what consumers want, Gap Inc. is also introducing an influencer program called “wear testers,” that will tap Hill City consumers to try samples of its clothing and provide reviews on them via chatbot. The initiative marks the first time that Gap Inc. has integrated an element of crowdsourcing into its strategy, collecting information straight from its customers in order to inform decisions.

The athleisure industry is a highly competitive one, full of offerings from several major players including Nike, Under Armour and Lululemon, so Gap Inc.’s entrance into the market is a risk—but a seemingly calculated one. According to NPD Group, sales of activewear clothing grew about 2% to reach $48 billion in 2017, representing 22% of total apparel sales, and a report released by Global Industry Analysts Inc. predicts that sports and fitness apparel clothing will reach $231.7 billion worldwide by 2024. What’s more, Lululemon recently announced that men’s pieces now account for 22% of its total sales.

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With a market that’s so saturated, one might wonder if the investment of time and money Gap Inc. has put into creating a new brand might be better spent on revitalizing existing ones. However, the company appears confident that this venture will bring something new to the table, betting that the success of Athleta bodes well for its foray into the men’s space.

Hill City’s General Manager Noah Palmer told CNBC, “There is a lot of really good, technological high-performance stuff on the market that we don’t think looks good. Our wish is to bridge that gap and build, essentially, a small closet for ourselves that looks how we want to look. Something that’s high-performing but where form meets function.”

Gap Inc.

 

For the first time in over 10 years, Gap Inc. is introducing a new brand. Called Hill City, the athleisure line for men is ostensibly a sister brand of its line for women, Athleta. While it will officially launch with online availability next month, approximately 50 Athleta stores will also feature pieces from the collection, which includes performance shirts, running pants and coats that range from $38 to $148.

The launch is just one bid that the formerly influential retailer, whose shares fell 20% last year, is making to regain its footing in the market. Jeff Kirwan, former CEO, stepped down without a successor in February, and the brand’s popularity has steadily waned in recent years due to a mix of factors, including the growing popularity of low-cost, “fast-fashion” retailers like Forever 21 and safe, bland styles that have failed to resonate with customers. It closed around 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores in 2017 due to poor sales, and shifted its focus to stronger performers Old Navy and Athleta.