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Why Vuori’s Betting Big on Brick and Mortar

Even as the country shifts back to its pre-Covid lifestyles, Vuori, a California-based activewear brand that flourished amid the pandemic, is showing no signs of slowing down.

Just last weekend, the company debut its first East Coast location, a popup shop in Bridgehampton, N.Y., a popular Hamptons destination for summertime consumers. On Friday, it will open its seventh California store in San Jose. Two more locations are scheduled to launch in August, followed by another two to three in the back half of the year, according to Catherine Pike, Vuori’s senior director of retail. By the end of the year, the company expects to reach between 12 and 14 open locations.

Next year, however, “is really the year where [Vuori starts] to expand,” Pike said. With an eye on all the major markets outside of California—especially those on the East Coast— the brand anticipates roughly doubling its store footprint in 2022 alone.

Vuori's first East Coast location opened this month in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Vuori’s first East Coast location opened this month in Bridgehampton, N.Y. Vuori

Though a part of Vuori’s strategy early on had been to enter a new area with a popup store first—as it is doing in New York—and then upgrade, Pike said the majority of the deals the brand is looking at now are longer-term. While the popup model will not entirely disappear—she called it a “tool” in Vuori’s tool belt—the brand is simply “not afraid” to move on longer-term deals when it finds a good fit, she said.

Exponential growth

Unlike others in retail that faced a long road back to pre-pandemic store sales, Pike said Vuori saw its numbers return to normal “as soon as” it moved from curbside pickup back to in-store shopping. Since then, she added, sales have grown “exponentially.”

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“People who found the brand during that closure and because of our strong online business wanted to experience it,” Pike said. “Our fabrics and our feel of our product [are] so unique that having a tactile experience in-store where you get to walk around and feel the different fabrics, not to mention the fitting room experience, it’s just something that has proven to be incredibly important for the brand and for our growth.”

Vuori's first East Coast location opened this month in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Vuori’s Bridgehampton popup is expected to remain open into October. Vuori

Pike admits that part of Vuori’s success has been about being in the right place at the right time. “We had kind of a unique situation in that we have made the perfect product for Covid,” she said, referring to the comfort and active craze that dominated apparel sales during quarantine. As priorities shift away from loungewear and work-from-home apparel, she said customers have returned to Vuori for things like outdoor gear and traveling clothes.

“We do hear really funny conversations where people are now trying to figure out… how to take items that are performance apparel… and maybe now make them office appropriate,” Pike added. “So people are coming in and saying, ‘Okay, I guess my joggers are mostly going to be after-work and the weekends, what do you guys have that I can wear into an office?’”

Of course, Vuori is not alone in cashing in on the activewear boom. In the first year of Target’s activewear brand All in Motion—the retailer fortuitously launched the private label two months before the pandemic’s recognized global spread—the product line surpassed $1 billion in sales. Kohl’s, which has already doubled its active category since 2013 to 20 percent of its mix, now plans to grow the segment to 30 percent of its business.

According to a recent report released by the fashion retail analytics platform StyleSage, activewear and athleisure styles have remained steady drivers for apparel over the course of the past year, even as loungewear interest starts to fall. Sweatpants and sweatshirts searches, it noted as an example, have dropped off this year. Customer searches for sports bras, meanwhile, have leaped 150 percent since October.