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Oct 29, 2020

WWD: Fabletics Doubles Down on Retail With Rowing Machine Deal, More Stores

The pandemic has not made the athleticwear brand averse to physical retail

by Kali Hays | Oct 29th, 2020

Fabletics is still betting on in-store retail and even bringing in rowing machines as part of a new multiyear deal with Hydrow.

The athleticwear brand, faced by actor Kate Hudson, who cofounded it with co-chief executive officers of TechStyle Fashion Group Adam Goldenberg and Don Ressler, starting next month will have Hydrow rowing machines in several stores for shoppers to try. The machines offer in-home, live workouts, akin to what Peloton does with cycling.

Priced at just under $2,300 during a pandemic that’s doubled the number of unemployed people in the U.S., one wouldn’t expect the Hydrow to be snapped up by many customers. But co-ceo Goldenberg said Fabletics research data shows differently.

“We’ve learned doing research during the pandemic, over 70 percent of Fabletics customers are working out three times a week or more,” Goldenberg said. “The other thing we’ve seen is that they are super-interested in the connected fitness products hitting the market. We have 25 to 30 percent of customers saying they are very interested and looking into purchasing one in the near future.”

Also as part of the deal, Fabletics will now be Hydrow’s official apparel partner. So, Fabletics will dress all of the Hydrow instructors who lead live and taped workouts for users of the machine. And the brand plans to collaborate with them in other ways in the future. There will be some workout content offered on the Fabletics web site, too, but Fabletics VIPs (about two million customers that opt-in to a monthly purchase program) will have access to exclusive content on any Hydrow machine they buy.

While Fabletics has been since last year looking into ways to add benefits and further the “community” aspect for its VIP customers, conversations with Hydrow only started after the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March. Goldenberg wouldn’t specify the length of the deal beyond multiyear, but did say he expects it to become “a very long-term partnership.”

Right now, Hydrow does not operate any of its own retail stores. Fabletics has 51 retail locations, nearly all of which were closed for the first four months of the pandemic, but have since reopened with certain restrictions and safety measures. Still, Goldenberg thinks showing off the rowing machine in-stores makes the most sense, not least given the price tag.

“When you’re thinking of a $2,000-plus purchase, you want to see it in person, touch it try it out.” He added that more than half of Fabletics’ in-store shoppers are already VIPs of the brand, so would be getting the extra perks built into the Hydrow deal if they buy one.

As for retail in general, Goldenberg is bullish on Fabletics’ prospects in the area. He said the brand will have 100 stores within the next couple of years and he’s been signing leases for new stores during the months of the pandemic. The company has not enacted layoffs or furloughs.

“I will say this year feels like ten years, but Fabletics has done very well,” he said. “We’re completely on track [with business projections] if not a little ahead of where we’d thought we’d be.”