By Kavita Kumar
The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS — Target is ready to launch yet another new brand — one that executives hope will help it compete with the likes of Athleta and Lululemon.
All in Motion, an activewear brand developed by Target’s in-house designers, will replace C9 by Champion, a licensed brand from Hanesbrands that Target has exclusively carried for more than 15 years.
The new brand will roll out on Target.com on Jan. 17 and will be in stores a week later.
“The team spent about two years talking to 15,000 guests across the country to understand what they’re looking for in their activewear and how to make sure Target is meeting that need,” said Courtney Foster, a Target spokeswoman. “They went on to develop this brand that has attributes that we believe are on par with premium brands but at Target prices.”
Target expects the new brand will help it gain market share in the category, she said. While she declined to break out the previous sales of C9, she said All in Motion is expected to hit $1 billion in sales in its first year.
That would make the line — which will be the only Target private-label brand to span women’s, men’s and kids’ apparel — one of the retailer’s larger brands in its portfolio. Cat & Jack in children’s and A New Day in women’s, which have been some of Target’s more successful newer apparel lines, are also billion-dollar-plus brands for Target.
All in Motion was designed with quality, sustainability and inclusivity in mind, Target said. It has durable fabrics that wick and are soft to the touch and features such as thumb holes in sleeves, odor control, and flat seams to reduce chafing. Many products are made with recycled polyester or sustainably sourced cotton.
All of the brand’s offerings will come in sizes up to 4x in women’s and 3x in men’s, but the extended sizes will be offered mostly only online.
“It’s the final piece of the jigsaw in Target’s overall revamp of apparel,” said Neil Saunders, an analyst with GlobalData Retail, adding that Target has had tremendous success in the last couple of years in apparel as it has phased out older brands and replaced them with newer, fresher ones.
In addition to Cat & Jack and A New Day, Target has launched Goodfellow & Co. in men’s, denim-focused Wild Fable and Auden, Colsie and Stars Above in sleepwear and lingerie, among others. In the process, it has pushed out older brands such as Merona, Mossimo and Gilligan & O’Malley.
Overhauling its roster of brands, which also has touched its housewares and grocery aisles, has been a key part of CEO Brian Cornell’s multipronged strategy that has helped the retailer post strong sales and land among the winners in retail. It has also helped it take market share from struggling department stores and specialty apparel retailers.
But up until now, Target’s activewear offering hadn’t been up to snuff with the rest of its apparel department, Saunders said.
“It wasn’t inspiring,” he said. “It didn’t feel new. It felt a bit stale, a bit predictable. There’s an opportunity to do something more cutting edge with new colors, new shapes and new silhouettes.”
It’s smart for Target to focus on activewear, he added, because it’s a lucrative market that is growing amid the rising interest in health and exercise while the rest of the apparel market has been slowing down.
Target’s All in Motion could bring some added competition for specialty players such as Gap’s activewear brands, Athleta and Hill City, Saunders said.
“But it will be difficult for them to take significant share from Lululemon,” he said, adding that the yoga brand’s technical materials and styling are quite differentiated. “Its customers are also fiercely brand loyal.”
In addition, Lululemon’s price points are much higher.
Department stores have also been beefing up their activewear assortments in recent years in response to the popularity of the category. Kohl’s, for example, started selling products from Under Armour a few years ago, adding to its other offerings that include Nike.
Target and Hanesbrands previously announced in August 2018 that they were ending their partnership on C9 and that those products would no longer be sold in Target stores by this year. Target expects it will mostly phase out its C9 merchandise by next month, Foster said.
In recent weeks, the Minneapolis-based retailer has begun marking down its C9 inventory. Earlier this week, many items were 50% off at its Nicollet Mall store in downtown Minneapolis where signs were also posted in the department saying: “A new brand coming soon.”
A couple of years ago, Target launched another smaller private-label activewear line called JoyLab, which is intended to be more of a fashion-forward line with bold prints and colors. But that line is only offered for women.
“We are excited about the portfolio that includes both All in Motion and JoyLab,” Foster said. “We think they complement each other quite nicely.”
All in Motion also will include some swimwear as well as sporting good items such as yoga mats and weights.
Prices will range from $3.99 to $69.99, but most items will be under $40.
A full marketing campaign will launch next month and will feature models in a wide range of ages and body sizes. Photos will not be retouched as part of Target’s emphasis on body positivity, the company said.
That’s one of the other ways Target is looking to differentiate the new brand from competitors _ by not focusing on big athletic feats or other such goals.
One of Target’s insights in developing the brand, Foster said, is that many of its customers already lead active lives.
“They’re not looking for a brand that wants them to do better, but celebrates where they’re at in their fitness journey,” she said. “Oftentimes, they’re proud of where they’re at.”