Dick’s Sporting Goods is launching its own men’s athleisure line

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VRST is debuting Tuesday on both Dick’s Sporting Goods’ website and a standalone VRST.com, and will be rolled out to more than 400 Dick’s Sporting Goods locations across the country in the coming weeks.

Source: Dick’s Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods is entering a hotly contested market for men’s athletic apparel with the launch of its own brand called VRST.

VRST debuts Tuesday on Dick’s website and a standalone VRST.com, and will roll out to more than 400 Dick’s stores in the coming weeks, the company said. Items in the line, which include everything from joggers and shorts to tees, quarter-zips, and hooded sweatshirts, retail anywhere from $30 to $120, putting it on the higher end of the market when it comes to price point.

Following the success that Dick’s has had with its Calia athleisure line for women, the company said it saw a blank space in its stores to have a more upscale and lifestyle-driven line for men. The line won’t compete directly with the sweat-wicking performance gear sold by Under Armour and Nike. Instead, it’s more similar to Lululemon.

Dick’s amped up private-label investments come, though, as big-name brands like Nike and Under Armour have pledged to sell more merchandise directly to consumers. Adidas announced earlier this month its direct-to-consumer vertical should make up 50% of net sales by 2025. While Dick’s still carries these brands, the pivot has put more pressure on wholesale retailers to have exclusive lines, like Calia and VRST, to drive traffic and sales.

In 2020, Dick’s rang up $1.3 billion in sales from its in-house brands. Total revenue was $9.58 billion. The company said its own brands outperformed national labels in the golf, fitness, outdoor equipment and team sports categories. Calia was the second-best women’s apparel brand falling only behind Nike last year, it said.

Filling the ‘white space’

VRST will be the second brand that Dick’s has launched with its own website. Calia was the first.

“When you see VRST, it will be a very different product assortment from when we have with our core vendor partners right now, and it is a white space,” Dick’s Chief Executive Lauren Hobart said earlier this month during an earnings call. “It covers a broad range of activities.”

“VRST will put us in a much stronger position to compete with similar offerings from premium apparel brands and specialty athletic apparel stores,” Hobart explained.

Items in the VRST line, which include everything from joggers, shorts, tees, quarter-zips, and hooded sweatshirts, retail anywhere from $30 to $120, putting it on the higher end of the market when it comes to price point.

Source: Dick’s Sporting Goods

Companies like Lululemon, Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have seen more momentum over the past 12 months than clothing brands focused on work wear and dressier items. And in turn, more traditional apparel brands and department store chains quickly shifted their merchandise and marketing to center around casual and comfort, creating more clamor in an already noisy category.

Activewear grabs market share

Prior to the pandemic, for example, Lululemon said it planned to double its men’s business in five years. Direct-to-consumer men’s athleisure brands like Rhone, Ten Thousand and Vuori have also been doubling down on marketing spending online to reach new customers. Even department store retailers Nordstrom and Kohl’s have put a renewed focus on activewear, in a bid to boost sales. Kohl’s efforts include an in-house line called FLX, which debuted earlier this month.

At the same time, there’s been enormous growth in the space.

Last year, men’s activewear gained market share to account for 45% of the total men’s apparel market, compared with 39% in 2019, according to data compiled by the consumer research firm NPD Group. Categories that helped drive dollars in the space included sweatpants, which were up 16% year over year, and sweatshirts, which rose 3%, it said.

But VRST isn’t a hurry-up solution to take advantage of a pandemic pop. It has been in the works for a few years, the company said.

“And obviously we’re maximizing the current momentum,” Nina Barjesteh, senior vice president of product development, said in an interview. “But more than anything, we continue to look at the long run, and make sure that we’re building products that you want to come back for more.”

Dick’s shares are up more than 190% over the past 12 months, as of market close on Monday. The company has a market cap of $7 billion.



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