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Academy’s the Latest to Invest in Private-Label Activewear

Count Academy Sports + Outdoors as the latest company looking to capitalize further on the private-label activewear boom, following in the recent footsteps of category mainstays like Athleta and Foot Locker.

The sporting goods and apparel retailer, which just last year launched an exclusive women’s private-label activewear collection, Freely, is expanding the assortment to include Freely girls’ pieces.

In addition, the brand will unveil new women’s and women’s plus styles, patterns and colors for the spring season, including corresponding girls’ sets. New patterns and colors will be updated throughout the spring season.

Academy Sports + Outdoors is proud to support women as they express their authentic style and spirit in pursuit of their passions,” said Lori Fike, vice president and merchandising manager, athletic apparel at Academy. “We believe that confident women inspire confident girls, and the newest Freely assortment was designed to empower women regardless of activity or age.”

The new women’s and women’s plus spring styles are available in sizes S to 3X and the Freely girls’ line is available in S to XL. The collections include matching pullovers, tanks, bike shorts and leggings, as well as Freely footwear.

Freely customers can curate a closet of flexible, lifestyle-centric apparel options made with high quality materials. Prices range from $14.99 to $39.99. Academy says that one-third of the items are made from recycled materials.

“As a mother of four, I’m constantly seeking versatile clothes that move with me from my workouts to spending time with my children to running errands,” said Le Egwuatu, a fitness blogger and Academy partner, in a statement. “Freely clothes complement my body, support my lifestyle, and allow me to tackle my day on my terms. I’m thrilled to be able to instill that essence in the next generation with their new Girls’ line.”

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Customers can shop Freely in all 259 Academy stores, on its website or through its mobile app.

Athleta

Academy’s activewear expansion is just the latest of many signs that the category is here to stay. In January, Athleta enhanced its activewear offering by partnering with 15-time Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys.

The singer-songwriter and Athleta will release the first in a series of product offerings on March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day. The Athleta x Alicia Keys collection will be available in sizes XXS to 3X starting March 8 at Athleta.com and in all Athleta retail locations. The limited-edition collection unites Keys’ style with Athleta’s inclusive designs.

“Alicia has made a powerful commitment to well-being and we are thrilled to welcome her to Athleta’s community of empowered women,” said Mary Beth Laughton, president and CEO officer of Athleta in a statement. “As we work toward our goal of reaching $2 billion in net sales in 2023, part of our growth strategy is constantly listening to our customers’ needs. With the recent launch of our digital community, AthletaWell, we created a space where women can connect with each other around topics of well-being, health and purpose. With a values-driven partnership like this one with Alicia, we are ideally positioned to continue to meet our customer’s needs in the well-being space and support her across all aspects of her life.”

Athleta has forged high-profile partnerships in recent years, with Keys joining Olympic gold medalists such as gymnast Simone Biles and track and field star Allyson Felix.

Foot Locker

Foot Locker has also invested in several new private-label brands in recent months. The retailer introduced capsule collections created with emerging designers and streetwear heavyweights like its creative director Melody Ehsani and Just Don founder Don Crawley, professionally known as Don C. In October, the athleticwear seller launched the private label LCKR, including an introductory line of pullover hoodies and tapered sweatpants, zip-up hoodies, cargo pants and matching track jacket and pant sets.

Most recently, Foot Locker launched the aptly named Cozi collection of affordably priced premium wardrobe staples.

Priced at $35 to $50, the premier collection offers a neutral color palette including buttercream, dusty rose, antique bronze and pesto. Trend-forward styles including cropped quarter-zip pullover tops and hoodies, wide-leg sweatpants and high-rise joggers are available in inclusive women’s sizing XS to 3X. Positioned as a “wear-whenever, wherever” brand, Cozi will release seasonal collections in a blend of spandex and cotton fabric throughout 2022.

Academy, Athleta, Foot Locker Invest in
Cozi’s perfect pullover hoodie and high rise joggers in a “dusty rose” color palette.

The debut Cozi collection is sold in store and online at Foot Locker, Foot Locker Canada, Foot Locker Europe and Champs Sports, with exclusive styles and colors available at select locations.

The diverse group of women promoting the brand include singer-songwriter Sy’rai Smith, skateboarder and community organizer Briana King, content creator Ilianna Ayala Garcia, photographer Christina Paik, video producer Hannah O’Flynn, DJ and creative Amrit and musicians Angel and Dren Coleman.

“At Foot Locker, Inc., we are always thinking about the consumer. We understand that laid-back apparel isn’t just for lounging anymore, and wanted to bring a female-centric apparel line to the market that is comfortable, affordable and stylish” says Kirta Carroll, vice president, general merchandising manager, global women’s at Foot Locker, Inc. “The introduction of Cozi allows women to feel confident in pieces that mix and match with their own style and personality.”

Activewear in general has continued to fly off the shelves over the past year. Retail analytics firm Edited said in January that while new arrivals available online for active brands in 2021 fell 0.3 percent year over year, majority SKU sellouts surpassed pre-pandemic levels, clocking a 42 percent increase over 2019. The market appeared even more profitable, with 4 percent fewer activewear items discounted than in 2019, meaning fewer markdowns were taken to generate sellouts, helping to keep margins intact. Meanwhile, 2022 is off to a stellar start with majority SKU sellouts already up 26 percent year over year.

Additionally, sellouts of seamless activewear—meaning activewear without sewing, creases or stitches—rose 8 percent year over year at pure-play e-commerce retailers in 2021. The trend was even more pronounced in the fast fashion market, with sellouts increasing 72 percent over 2020.

Overall, activewear sales grew approximately 30 percent last year, according to data from NPD Group. For 2022, the market research firm’s senior sports industry advisor Matt Powell predicted that activewear revenue will increase in the mid-single digits.