Banana Republic is filling its merchandise voids in a “genderful” way.
Two categories — BR Baby and BR Athletics — get launched in March, as part of what Sandra Stangl, Banana Republic’s president and chief executive officer, describes as the new vision for the business. “We really are aiming to become an iconic lifestyle brand, with both of these launches. Inclusivity is part of it.”
“BR Baby and BR Athletics mix the mainstream with the unexpected and deliver elevated, thoroughly modern, lifestyle collections,” Stangl said. “We approached both by deconstructing what made Banana Republic successful in the first place — taking things that people already know, have nostalgia for, and framing them in new ways that feel fresh.”
Banana Republic has a heritage of expedition/safari-inspired fashion and for offering what’s often referred to as accessible luxury, priced well under designer brands. Becoming a lifestyle brand implies bringing on a broader assortment to capture more audiences, which Banana needs.
“There are many places we can go,” said Stangl, acknowledging the possibility of future category additions. Unlike its brethren Gap division at Gap Inc., Banana Republic does not sell kids, though Stangl said, “Kids may be a possibility. But we are starting with BR Baby.”
BR Baby, selling sizes up to 24 months, officially launches March 1, though there will be an Instagram presale on Saturday.
“We saw an absence in the premium baby market, for an elevated point of view, beyond basics,” Stangl said.
Initially, at least, BR Baby will be presented online and in 23 Banana Republic stores. “BR Baby will have its own shop online and in our stores in the best markets.”
In the stores, 200-square-foot “pods” have been created for BR Baby. “We’ve created a complete look around it. It feels like a small nursery environment with beautiful furnishings.”
BR Baby draws upon the brand’s legacy of safari-inspired style, and has a whimsical, adventurous spirit, with pieces adorned with animal prints, fantastical maps and illustrated palm trees, among other imaginative details. The 40-piece collection includes sleep, bodysuits, accessories, knit tops, sets, with several styles taking their cues from adult pieces, featuring elements such as oversize pockets and buttons, cashmere pieces, a bodysuit inspired by a women’s bestselling tank. There are a limited number of “mini-me” pieces — matching looks for baby and adults — and some non-apparel items, including playmats. Prices range from $20 to $250.
BR Athletics will launch March 16 online and in 19 stores, with 16 styles. Like BR Baby, BR Athletics will be housed in pods of about 200 square feet in the stores, with a distinct environment.
“BR Athletics is inspired by the legacy of classic sports club attire,” Stangl said. “There’s an irreverent attitude, a modern play on established, nostalgic golf clubhouse looks, with striped blazers, cricket sweaters, stripes, the BR Athletics signature monogram, varsity patches and gold buttons. It’s a streetwear spin on vintage 1920s and 1930s.”
Though its name might suggest it, BR Athletics does not include any athletic performance wear. Banana Republic, however, does sell sweats, hoodies, shorts and T-shirts that can be used for exercise.
In other changes, Banana Republic continues to streamline its store count, while “refreshing” the interiors of stores and outlets that have a future. Banana Republic operates 242 retail stores and 204 outlets in North America.
In addition, the search for a chief brand officer is “a work in progress,” Stangl said. Ana Andjelic formerly held the position, but she abruptly left the business last November.
Banana Republic has long struggled with declining market share and relevance. In its fiscal year ended Feb. 1, 2020, the brand generated $2.54 billion in volume. In the pandemic-impacted fiscal year ended Jan. 30, 2021, Banana generated $1.46 billion in sales. Gap Inc. has not yet reported results for last year recently ended.
Stangl, who joined Banana over a year ago after working at such companies as RH (Restoration Hardware), Pottery Barn Kids and Williams Sonoma, has been repositioning Banana Republic for a better future. Last fall, Banana launched a campaign, themed “The New Look.” At the time, Stangl said, “We’re reimagining every detail of the customer experience in the form of democratic, approachable and inclusive luxury. From immersive product stories seen in-store and on digital platforms, to the updated quality of product designs and fabrics, customers will see elevated experiences and details across all touchpoints.”