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Athleta exec says new sleepwear line cements it as a ‘lifestyle brand’

  • Athleta launched its first sleepwear collection this week, a 34-piece line available in stores and online that includes lightweight tees, culottes, and camisoles.
  • According to Athleta’s Head of Merchandising Jana Henning, the sleep collection is part of a long-term strategic expansion into lifestyle categories that transcend traditional athletic and athleisure apparel.
  • “While we’ve continued to innovate through the pandemic — like by introducing masks last March — the sleep launch is part of our larger strategy to be a true lifestyle brand, introduce more customers to our brand, and bring innovation in product through a lens of female empowerment,” Henning told Insider. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Athleta is capitalizing on its success selling comfortable clothes to homebound Americans during the pandemic with its first sleepwear collection. 

The launch of the 34-piece line — which includes lightweight tees, culottes, camisoles, among other items — comes on the heels of a particularly impressive year for Athleta, including a 35% increase in sales in its most recent quarter. According to Jana Henning, Athleta’s head of merchandising, the sleep collection marks the latest effort in the company’s foray into lifestyle categories that transcend traditional athletic and athleisure apparel.

For Athleta — the “fastest-growing brand” in the Gap, Inc. portfolio, according to Gap CEO Sonia Syngal — experimenting with new product areas has been essential to attracting new customers. In addition to its popular leggings and sports bras, Athleta has introduced a series of products in recent years such as its “city pants” and office wear collections, dresses, and children’s clothing.

Most recently, Athleta began selling face masks, helping attract 2 million new customers to the brand in the third quarter of 2020 alone.  

“While we’ve continued to innovate through the pandemic — like by introducing masks last March — the sleep launch is part of our larger strategy to be a true lifestyle brand, introduce more customers to our brand, and bring innovation in product through a lens of female empowerment,” Henning told Insider. 

Read more: From Peloton to Classpass, meet the 17 digital fitness executives who are changing the way Americans workout as the pandemic reshapes the exercise industry

Henning said the sleepwear collection, which officially debuted in stores and online this week, was inspired in large part by customer feedback and focus groups, during which the brand discovered a level of high interest in “holistic wellness.” 

“The entry into sleep was inspired by listening sessions with customers on their sleepwear interests and nighttime routines, as well as leveraging insights from experts to ensure the brand is supporting them holistically,” Henning said. “We recognize that a great night of sleep helps our customer perform at her best, so it was important for us to create this product assortment offering.”

Among these experts was Dr. Michael Grandner, a board-certified expert in behavioral sleep medicine, who worked closely with Athleta to inform the company’s product design. Henning said Grandner was critical in providing “insights into the importance of recovery and sleep in balancing an active lifestyle,” adding that several of his tips will be repurposed for Athleta marketing material and social media channels.

“For example, we learned that sleep and recovery is when your muscles actually rebuild stronger, not during the actual workout,” Henning said. “This was important to us as we worked to design products that were soft, breathable and comfortable, all aimed at optimal recovery.”

Though Henning anticipates the pandemic will continue to drive customers to Athleta, she said products like sleepwear will continue to resonate with consumers long after the outbreak dissipates. 

“We know that even before the pandemic many women were not getting enough quality sleep,” she said. “We also know more and more women are focusing on self-care and holistic wellness, and by offering sleepwear, we are able to support the full lifestyle, from active performance to rest.”

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