Macy’s Pushes Activewear for Millennials

In its quest to attract consumers between the ages of 13 and 30, the retailer will significantly expand its activewear offerings for women over the next year.

A rendering of Macy’s enhanced activewear offer.

Macy’s Millennial push is entering a more active phase.

This story first appeared in the September 9, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In its quest to attract a free-spending consumer between the ages of 13 and 30, the retailer will significantly expand its activewear offerings for women over the next year. Nike, The North Face, Under Armour, Calvin Klein Performance and its private label Ideology — brands currently carried at Macy’s in a smaller way — will be rolled out to more stores beginning this month. In addition, Helly Hansen, an upscale outdoor brand, will be added in select locations.

The activewear initiative follows on the heels of the company’s deal with Finish Line last fall to open branded athletic footwear shops in more than 450 stores in the U.S. Last month, Macy’s teamed with Lids to open and operate licensed team merchandise shops at its stores nationwide under the name Locker Room by Lids. Twenty-five pilot shops are opening this fall with an additional 175 coming on board for spring.

“As we continue challenging ourselves to better serve the evolving needs of Macy’s current and future customers, it became clear that active apparel presented an opportunity for growth,” said Jeff Gennette, chief merchandising officer of Macy’s Inc. “Our customer insights show that our Millennial customers have significant crossover in shopping active where we have the assortment, so we believe that satisfying his and her total lifestyle must involve more fashion and function in our active offerings. We are working with the best brands in the category to bring our customers exciting merchandise that will serve their athletic interests in all endeavors — from the yoga studio to the weight room, to hiking and rock climbing.”

The merchandise will be available at both Macy’s brick-and-mortar stores and online. Shops will be added in larger stores but the area will be branded in every store. Kiosks will be incorporated into stores as well to allow customers to access product from any store, even if the merchandise is not available in that particular location.

“We’re really expanding the footprint of active within the women’s area,” said Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer. Without providing specific numbers, she said the space devoted to the category is being doubled.

Reardon noted that the men’s activewear category has been strong for Macy’s for over five years, but “where we had white space was for the female customer.” She stressed that the merchandise the customer is asking for is appropriate to wear at the gym, go shopping or have lunch. “She didn’t want as much performancewear to climb Mount Everest,” she said. “So we had to find brands with the functionality to satisfy the woman who wants to work out but also has a fashion sensibility.”

Nike, for example, had only been offered for women in around 180 stores, but will be getting a much “bigger footprint. And added to that will be friends such as Under Armour, CK Performance and Idealogy with Helly Hansen sprinkled in. It will all be sitting in one zone that will show how committed we are to this area.”

Specifically, Nike men’s, boys and girls product will be available in about 650 stores, with women’s and infants merchandise in about 240 stores. The North Face activewear, fleece, rainwear, down and tri-climate jackets for men, women, boys, girls and infants will be available at 130 stores. Under Armour, known for its compression gear and moisture-wicking fabric, will be offered for men in 70 stores and in 50 locations for women’s and boys’. The competitively priced CK Performance brand will be offered for women only in 385 stores.

Macy’s own Ideology women’s private brand, which launched in spring 2012 and offers pieces for yoga, Pilates and the gym, is currently available in only 160 doors. But it will become the anchor of the department with a presence in over 400 doors later this year. “We’re expanding it in a big way,” she said.

New addition Helly Hansen will be offered in 30 stores for men and 25 stores for women.

Other activewear product carried at Macy’s includes Adidas, Champion, Columbia, Puma, Spyder and Marmot.

The men’s component, which Reardon said is already big and impactful, will be further intensified under this initiative. “But women’s is where you’ll see the biggest difference.”

The company will use data gleaned from its My Macy’s localization strategy to determine where to add the merchandise. Helly Hansen will be added to stores with higher average unit retail sales and where “the customer is likely to want that look,” she explained.

The big rollout is expected to be completed by the end of the fall season and Macy’s will most likely make some tweaks in the spring as well, she said.

Although the retailer is looking at this as the next step in its Millennial strategy, Reardon said the merchandise will appeal to older customers seeking “function as well as fashion.” She said Macy’s is also working on a catchy name for the department, but is keeping that under wraps.

Over the past year, Macy’s has introduced or expanded more than two dozen brands focused on the Millennial customer, an age group with estimated annual spending power of $65 billion for product at Macy’s price level. The initiative represents an effort to move beyond the 76 million Baby Boomers to attract their 70 million children and grandchildren.

Among the brands that have been added or emphasized over the past year are Marilyn Monroe, Made Fashion Week, Keds, Teen Vogue, Blossom & Clover, Truth or Dare, G-Star Raw, Ambiguous, Ezekiel Clothing, Comune, Rvca, Neff, Rachel Rachel Roy, else, kensie, DV by Dolce Vita, Material Girl, American Rag, Inglot Cosmetics, Smashbox Cosmetics, Kipling, Steve Madden Handbags and Stüssy.

“We’ve definitely been talking about the Millennial strategy for about a year but we really saw the fruits of our labor in March,” Reardon said. That was when Macy’s completed the addition of 23 new brands to its mix.

Among the top performers so far have been the Marilyn Monroe and Keds collections.

“We’ve been successful, but still have a long runway in front of us,” she said. “It’s definitely a three-year strategy with so many different brands we want to add and learning how to flow things different. This is not even the first inning for us, but we’re really pleased with how it’s doing.”

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