In one of the first projects that Ilona Aman began working on after being hired as Fabletics’ new CMO in September, the brand branched out of its traditional activewear and into a new category: scrubs.
According to Aman, the jump from gym clothes to scrubs isn’t as big as it may seem. Being a nurse is an active job, and both categories need a focus on comfort and performance for prolonged periods of physical activity. In her first interview since joining Fabletics, Aman told Glossy that she is approaching her new role with a more expansive view of what activewear can be.
Through the design phase and wear tests, Fabletics spent the last 18 months working with more than 6,500 customers who wear scrubs daily for work. Aman said the brand has kept in touch with these customers after the release of the category in late February to refine future releases. Fabletics sold more than 25,000 sets of scrubs (which can also be bought seperately) in the first day and 80,000 in the first week. The week’s sales doubled the company’s expectations for the entire first month. To help promote the collection, Fabletics gifted 25,000 scrubs to medical professionals across the U.S. and donated 10,000 more to various charities chosen by spokespersons Kevin Hart and Lizzo.
While the product was already in development when Aman joined the company, she led the effort to work with medical workers for insight and planned the launch and gifting campaigns.
Part of the expansion into scrubs has to do with the changes in the activewear sector. Aman said the space is currently in flux. On the one hand, brands from all corners of apparel have launched their own activewear collections in the last few years, in the wake of pandemic-era remote working environments. On the other hand, activewear brands have started to expand outward for the same reason. For example, brands like Rhone and Adidas now offer more options in tailored clothing and footwear. And while Fabletics still wants to compete with Lululemon and Alo Yoga on leggings, for example, none of Fabletics’ competitors are doing scrubs.
Instead, the new category will put Fabletics in competition with companies like Figs, a major player in the $10 billion scrubs market.
“One of the most important things on our roadmap right now is retail transformation, “ Aman said. Fabletics has 95 stores in the U.S. alone with plans to open more. Aman said, right now, she’s tackling the perennial marketing problem: how to make the in-store and online experiences work in tandem.
“Online and offline are different experiences and you don’t necessarily want them to mirror each other,” Aman said. “It’s dangerous to say, ‘Our in-store experience is good, so let’s mirror that online.’ That’s how you hit roadblocks because things don’t always translate.”
Instead, Aman said she’s been looking at how customers engage with both channels and then tailoring them to what customers want. Online shoppers, for example, want as few clicks as possible between seeing a product and buying it. In response, the team has streamlined the purchasing process, particularly on mobile, where customers can now use Apple Pay and other payment programs. But in-store, speed is not necessarily a virtue. Fabletics’ in-store customers tend to browse at a more leisurely pace and want a higher-touch experience. So as of last month, Fabletics has started training store associates on the store floor to sign-up customers to the brand’s loyalty program using their phones.
Fabletics has more than 2 million members of its paid subscription program. Its annual revenue topped $700 million last year, up about $100 million compared to the year before. Aman said inflation hasn’t yet impacted the brand’s prices and that Fabletics has absorbed increased production costs where possible.
Lower rent prices in retail markets like New York and the rising cost of digital marketing have made physical stores an attractive tool for marketing and brand-building in the last year.
“Any DTC brand that hopes to succeed in the coming decade needs to figure out how to take advantage of the most cost-effective customer acquisition channel they have: the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar store,” said Andrew Duffy, CEO and co-founder of retail management firm SparkPlug.