Gap now has a men’s counterpart for its Athleta women’s athleticwear brand, with the unveiling of its newest division, Hill City. The brand will primarily sell clothes made of technical fabrics that are meant for workouts and everyday dressing.
Hill City is slated to launch in mid-October, available exclusively at hillcity.com, and pieces from the brand also will be displayed at 50 select Athleta locations. Shoppers will be able to buy Hill City products within these stores only via a kiosk taking online orders.
Although there are no present plans for standalone Hill City stores, the company wouldn’t rule out opening them in the future.
Since Athleta already has a well-developed supply chain for manufacturing workout clothes, Gap may have an easier path to growth with Hill City than it would with a different apparel category. Gap doesn’t reveal financial numbers for Athleta, which it bought in 2008, but the company anticipates the brand will hit the $1 billion sales milestone within a few years.
Athleta, along with Old Navy, have been high points for Gap Inc., particularly compared to the namesake and Banana Republic brands that have weighed the company down in recent years. Across all brands, Gap’s comparable sales have declined for 16 of the last 18 quarters.
Yet Athleta has been able to capitalize on a continually growing athleisure market by providing a cheaper price point than chief competitor lululemon athletica. In 2017, activewear apparel sales increased approximately 2% to $48 billion, representing roughly 22% of total apparel industry sales, according to NPD Group. A primary driver of that growth was greater sales of women’s athleisure merchandise, NPD said.
It’s worth noting that lululemon revealed that men’s items are now 22% of the retailer’s sales. Last quarter, sales of lululemon men’s pants rose 30%. With that in mind, Gap sees a growing market where it can take advantage. In fact, Gap Inc. made the move to launch Hill City upon hearing from Athleta customers looking for men’s items, according to CEO Art Peck.
“Active is a key growth area for Gap Inc. and Hill City is our response to consistent feedback from customers looking for a premium men’s product that combines highly technical fabrications, performance and style,” said Peck in a statement. “Hill City brings a new perspective to men’s apparel that is complementary to our iconic portfolio of brands and leverages the benefits of our uniquely scalable operating platform — from our supply chain, to e-Commerce to customer relationships and data.”
Noah Palmer, who most recently served as the head of Gap’s Old Navy men’s business, is overseeing the Hill City launch, serving as its General Manager.