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Apr 20, 2021

Gap bringing Athleta brand to Canada amid retail uncertainty

Canadian market is ready for another athletic wear brand: Athleta CEO

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At a time when many retail storefronts are boarded up due to the pandemic, Gap Inc.’s Athleta brand is making its way into Canada with two new locations. 

The performance lifestyle brand will open stores at Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre and West Vancouver's Park Royal Shopping Centre this fall while other regions will be served through e-commerce sales starting this summer.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many retailers have faced lockdowns and other pandemic-related restrictions, forcing some to file for creditor protection and others to suffer steep financial losses. Gap itself has closed several North American stores, including its flagship Toronto store on Bloor Street's Mink Mile.

Mary Beth Laughton, president and chief executive officer of Athleta, said entering Canada was a “really big opportunity” despite the country’s economic uncertainty. As well, the announcement marks the Gap-owned brand's initial expansion outside of the United States.

“We saw that the market is ready,” she said in a TV interview. “Women love active performance apparel, they love versatile products, I think they are looking for another brand in the market and we’re really excited to bring this to them.”

When asked about competing against home-grown performance brand Lululemon, Laughton said Athleta’s advantage is its focus on women.

“We feel great about what we’re going to be able to bring to Canada with our value proposition," she said. "We are a brand that is all women, for women, by women, one of our core values is to empower women and girls to reach their full potential so I think that’s a really differentiator for us.”

Gap plans to open between 20 and 30 Athleta stores a year across North America, adding to its 200 existing locations in United States, the company said in a release. Gap said it expects to see Athleta grow to US$2 billion in net sales by 2023. 

In 2020, Athleta surpassed US$1 billion in net sales with 16 per cent growth in annual sales. 

In addition to Athleta and its in-house brands, Gap also owns the Old Navy, Banana Republic and Intermix retailers.