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Gap Axes Men’s Activewear Brand Hill City After Two-Year Run

While active and athleisure apparel has become the uniform of choice for many homebound consumers during the coronavirus crisis, not all brands have been able to capitalize on the craze.

Last week, Gap Inc. announced that it would be folding its Hill City brand of men’s performance clothing after just two years.

The decision comes amid supply-chain-induced turmoil for the fashion firm, which owns the Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta brands. Earlier this spring, the San Francisco-based apparel giant halted orders on summer product across its portfolio, and asked suppliers to hold off on production for fall amid decreased consumer spending and the threat of an economic recession.

The move devastated the firm’s international factory partners in countries like Bangladesh, India and Myanmar. But the clothing company faced substantial financial hurdles even before store shutdowns went into effect.

Gap Inc.’s fiscal 2019 results showed comparable sales were down 1 percent year over year. Net sales were also down 1 percent to $16.4 billion, and projections for comparable sales in fiscal 2020 were to be down by single digits even before factoring in the impacts of the pandemic.

While Hill City is no more, other brands are finding a place in the spotlight as retail-loving consumers search for a practical way to get their shopping fix.

Los Angeles-based activewear brand Vuori has been inundated with online orders since its five stores shut down. The brand has had to re-up on its ultra-popular performance joggers for men and women, made from a proprietary blend of fine denier polyester and elastane, after selling out multiple times.

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Men’s performance label Rhone, which does a booming business on its direct-to-consumer site, has extended a helping hand to its wholesale partners during the crisis. The brand dropped credit card processing fees at Nordstrom and Equinox, two of its top partners, to help bolster the retailers’ sales throughout the pandemic.

New players are also seizing on the opportunity to jump into the mix. Men’s active apparel startup Fox & Robin will launch its line of compression shorts and shirts this fall, tapping into consumers’ desire for comfortable, yet consciously made, staples.

According to NPD data released in early March, men’s active wear sales have grown by 2 percent over the past year, outpacing women’s performance apparel, which remained flat year over year. Of 2019’s $50.3 billion in activewear sales, purchases were split nearly evenly, with men accounting for 51 percent, and women accounting for 49 percent.

Still, men’s undeniable affinity for performance clothing wasn’t enough to propel Hill City forward.

“We are living in unprecedented times with unprecedented consequences,” Noah Palmer, head of Hill City, said in a statement describing the brand’s decision to close. “I am so proud of the Hill City team and what we accomplished in such a short time.”

The brand will continue to take orders and returns before winding down over the coming months.