By  on October 10, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — Target Corp. has built C9 by Champion into a $1 billion brand within its doors and will soon see how the activewear label performs beyond those barriers.

Today, the Minneapolis-based retailer will open a C9 Active Apparel store, the first retail concept Target has introduced not under its own name since a five-year experiment with specialty Everyday Hero stores ended in 1997. Housed in 3,000 square feet inside Westfield’s Metreon complex in San Francisco just below the fifth CityTarget in the U.S., the store reflects the strength of the activewear sector and Target’s strategy to make further inroads with urban shoppers who are turning activewear into all-day uniforms.

“This site in particular had additional space adjacent to the main store. We started thinking about what brands would make the most sense to isolate from the mother brand. Given the demographics of San Francisco and the growth of C9 overall, it didn’t take long for us to come up with the idea of opening a C9 Active Apparel store,” explained Target spokesman Joshua Thomas, who added, “The goal we had in mind was to create a lifestyle store and separating that from the Target store allowed us to create an environment fully immersed in the brand.”

Besides its proximity to a CityTarget, the C9 Active Apparel store, which Thomas said was designed internally by Target without involvement from C9 by Champion manufacturer Hanesbrands Inc., provides few clues that it is affiliated with Target. There is no Target signage, nor its ubiquitous bull’s-eye logo. Target’s red and white coloration is abandoned in favor of orange, and the C9 salespeople, who alternate between CityTarget and C9, wear orange shirts when on duty at C9. The industrial feel evoked by concrete flooring and exposed ceilings is in marked contrast to Target’s big-box aesthetic.

There are more than 300 styles of apparel merchandise in the store, and more than 100 accessory and sporting goods items. Apparel is roughly 60 percent women’s and 40 percent men’s. The women’s merchandise is grouped near C9 Active Apparel’s main entrance on Fourth Street, while another entrance next to the CityTarget escalators off of Mission Street leads to the men’s area.

Target was careful to localize the C9 Active Apparel store. There are products emblazoned with San Francisco’s main attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge. A film of people being active around the city greets shoppers when they come into the store, and photographs taken in San Francisco of yoga, running and pick-up football are exhibited throughout. The fitting room even has an approximate map of San Francisco with the message, “You are a run, bike, or yoga stretch away from the best urban workouts on earth.”

When C9 by Champion launched in 2004, sports bras were a core part of the assortment and remain bestsellers. A wall filled with colorful sports bras is a central merchandising feature of the C9 Active Apparel location, as is a wall of basics with socks and boxer briefs, among other items. There are also fixtures spotlighting an array of pants in short, capri, legging and boot-cut varieties. Four display tables highlight specific items, including $24.99 Advanced Super-Soft quarter Zip Jackets and $9.99 Active Power Workout T-shirts. Across the C9 assortment, the categories that are missing from the C9 Active Apparel store are footwear and children’s, which is available at the adjacent CityTarget location.


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