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A few yards away from Athleta, a local fitness chain is jumping on the same bandwagon. Golden Valley-based Steele Fitness, with six locations in the Twin Cities, just partnered with Under Armour to create a store within its fitness center called Under Armour for Steele.
Smiley said the 2,500- square-foot outpost, which opened last month at 50th and France, is the future of retail. It’s not just a store where men and women can buy athletic apparel, but a center for a healthy lifestyle.
“Our concept is all wellness, all the time,” Smiley said.
The Edina location has wellness coaches, workout equipment and a locker room complete with luxurious white bathrobes. Then, on its street level, it has workout gear, including co-branded items that Steele and Under Armour worked on together. Women’s tops advertise the Edina store or feature slogans like “Pretty Sweaty.”
“People love” the specialized collection, Smiley said. “Because it’s the unexpected.”
He said Twin Cities customers appreciate the high-performance aspects of Under Armour gear, which runs from about $20 to $150. And, of course, they like that it looks good.
“Women want to look like, ‘I could wear this out with jeans,’ ” said Lily Smith, who works at Steele. “And they do. I have, and I get compliments.”
Smiley plans to open Under Armour stores next to every Steele Fitness center as the company expands nationwide.
Target Corp. is also expanding its activewear selection. In October, the Minneapolis-based retailer opened its first stand-alone store for its C9 by Champion line, in San Francisco. The store offers athletic apparel for men, women and children. Most items are available for less than $30, said Target spokesman Lee Henderson.
“Our guests are looking for those higher-end pieces,” he said. “C9 provides higher-end technology at that lower price.”
The C9 line also sponsors marathons and other races, as well as in-store Target events, Henderson said. That’s because more and more, it’s not enough for Twin Cities retailers to offer workout clothes. They have to offer a lifestyle.
“You have to respond to the customer a whole lot faster,” Smiley said. “You can’t be Macy’s anymore.”
Celia Ampel • 612-673-4642