Express adds yoga apparel, activewear

Express adds yoga apparel, activewear

Sept. 03–Express is stretching out into yoga, following a trend among fashion retailers.

Executives at the Columbus-based fashion retailer told analysts during a recent second-quarter earnings report that it had tested yoga and activewear merchandise earlier this year, with good results.

“Love Express, the casual lounge and yoga wear concepts, and the Express Core, the authentic activewear items, will each officially be launched in October with online debuts,” said David Kornberg, president of Express. “The casual lounge product will also be delivered to our top 100 stores, while Express Core will initially appear in six stores.”

Express tested the yoga apparel strictly online, and the merchandise had “some of the highest conversion rates (of shoppers looking and then buying) that we’ve seen per page,” Kornberg said. ” It looked really, really good.”

The company was encouraged not only by those results but by the fact that sales of the yoga apparel didn’t take away from other purchases but was an addition to those sales, he said.

Ultimately, executives hope that the merchandise will be available soon in all of the chain’s more than 600 stores, but for now the loungewear will go out to 100 stores while the activewear items will continue to be tested.

In moving into the yoga apparel and activewear segment, Express is entering a booming sector, following the lead of such retailers as former parent company Limited Brands and its Victoria Secret Sport, as well as Nike, Gap, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren, J.Crew and Under Armour.

All of them, in turn, have been chasing Lululemon, which has succeeded with a combination of pricey athletic merchandise and in-store yoga classes.

For Express, an important part of its competitive strategy is to offer merchandise at much lower prices than Lululemon and others. Yoga pants typically sell for about $100 at Lululemon, for example, and Victoria’s Secret Sport sells them for about $64, while Express recently slashed the price on four different styles of yoga pants to $23.94 from $39.90.

Such aggressive pricing is partly why Express reported healthy earnings in the second quarter. That can be seen in the retailer’s e-commerce sales, the area in which yoga and activewear was tested.

During the quarter, online sales were up 27 percent to $59.9 million from last year’s $47.2 million.

“The growth in e-commerce continues in the high double digits, and we don’t see … any reason that should slow going forward,” said CEO Michael Weiss.