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Nike Courts Women with Insane Stores, Gym Perks

Photo: Nike
Photo: Nike

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Cute leggings and functional sports bras are no longer enough when it comes to succeeding in the fitness apparel market these days. In order to really compete, brands must also offer services, classes, and other perks to make sure the consumer believes in the lifestyle image they are trying to create.

No one knows this better than Nike, a company that's always seems to be at the top, not just in terms of size, but in innovation as well. As Nike made it clear at last month's extravagant New York City event, it has its eye set on the women's category, competing with female favorites like Lululemon and Athleta.

Yesterday, the brand debuted Nike Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California, where shoppers will be treated to an outsized fitness shopping experience. In addition to only selling women's product, the new store has styling, fitting, and tailoring amenities. It is also the first store to host a Nike Training Club as well as Nike+ Running Club workouts and programming like on-site yoga. All of the group classes are free, as are personal training sessions during the club's "open gym hours." Nike tells Racked it intends to roll out the concept to other cities around the world, with a similar space opening in Shanghai next weekend.

"The incredible energy around women's sport and fitness is a cultural shift, and we recognize that fitness for our consumers is not just what they do, it's who they are," explains Cathy Sparks, Nike North America's vice president and general manager of stores. "Growth of our women's business is outpacing men's, which demonstrates that our innovations and lifestyle products are really resonating with women. Deepening our connection with women at retail is one key component to our growth plans. Nike Fashion Island, our specialized services, weekly programming, and special events are designed to inspire and enable the community of active women."

Photo: Nike

The new store concept—which includes state-of-the-art facilities, locker rooms, and free towels and water bottles—certainly ups the ante, and could really only come from a brand like Nike, whose revenue this year is at almost $28 billion. Nike's women's business in particular has "never been stronger," Sparks says, with revenue of $5 billion and a growth prediction of $7 billion by 2018.

Nike's new store is also yet another indicator that the fitness apparel industry is a force to be reckoned with. Lululemon recently shared its plan to expand its business with men's-only concept stores, the first of which will open in New York on Black Friday. Last month, Nike nemesis Adidas announced it will open a design center in Brooklyn to "elevate the company's direct interaction with consumers" in 2015.

Sparks believes both the massive amount of product Nike produces, as well as the services its starting to provide, will set it apart from competitors. Companies like Lululemon already provide on-site tailoring and free yoga classes, but Sparks says Nike's size is the true point of difference. The Nike Pro Rival Bra, for example, comes in 25 sizes; with an offer like that, Nike can back up its claims to "provide the best tools available for women to expand their athletic potential."

"While we are the largest women's sports brand, we won't stop innovating for women," Sparks adds. "We don't just serve women with an ad. We live where they live. We engage them in a two-way dialogue through our unrivaled community of over 65 million women globally—and we move them closer to their goals."