Lululemon is training a whole new generation of yoga enthusiasts with a brand targeting girls as young as six.
Ivivva Athletica, pronounced “ih — vee — va,” will have 20 stores open by the end of the year.
The brand is a bright spot for the company. Ivivva’s same-store sales soared 37% in the most recent quarter, according to Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin. During the same time period, sales at Lululemon stores open at least a year fell 3%.
The brand could be a major growth driver for the company going forward, especially following a string of issues that analysts say alienated some of Lululemon’s most loyal customers.
The company began opening Ivivva stores in 2009 and has accelerated new store openings in the last year.
The brand targets girls between the ages of 6 and 15 years old with brightly coloured sports bras, leggings, yoga pants, leotards, jackets and hoodies made from the same materials as Lululemon apparel. The apparel runs in sizes 4 to 14.
“I’m very, very excited about the work that we are doing with Ivivva,” Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin said on a call with analysts in September, after noting that Ivivva had clocked a 36% increase in same-store sales for the second quarter. “We are creating the next generation of Lululemon guests, so a very exciting prospect, and in the meantime we’re doing great work in our communities with little girls.”
The clothing is cheaper than Lululemon’s, but it’s substantially more expensive than most girls’ activewear.
Like its parent company, Ivivva hosts in-store yoga, Zumba and other athletic classes. The stores also hold “Dreams and Goals” sessions, which are like support groups for young girls.
The brand’s Facebook page, which has more than 73,000 fans, is teeming with photographs of young girls dancing, stretching, and striking poses in their Ivivva apparel.
“These leggings are perfect for dance, yoga etc as well as school and sleepovers with your BFFs,” one happy customer wrote on the company’s website about the “rhythmic tight” leggings.
Another customer wrote of the “dedication pant,” “I wear these pants basically, every day, or whenever I can. I COMMAND YOU TO BUY THESE PANTS!!! Seriously I will die if you don’t buy these pants!”
The first Ivivva stores opened in 2009 in Canada and the website was launched in 2011. The company now has nearly 20 stores and 36 showrooms in the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. locations include Dallas, Houston, Manhattan, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Mo., Bellevue, Wash. and Scottsdale, Ariz.
The showrooms are “smaller, cozier versions of our retail stores with a limited selection of products,” according to Lululemon spokeswoman Alecia Pulman.
“We open showrooms to become part of the community to share our culture, work with local athletes and provide a retail location that is unique to that area,” she said. “During the week, we may host private get-togethers, plan community events, and act as a hub on where guests can find great classes, or just have a good time in the neighbourhood.”
During community events, the Ivivva team seeks girls’ input and feedback “on every aspect of the brand, from store design to music to product, which has contributed to its connection with guests and its growth,” she said.
While the brand claims that its clothes “often outlast our growing young athletes with our high-quality standards,” some customers have been experiencing pilling problems similar to those that we reported on at Lululemon, according to reviews posted on Ivivva’s website.
“These were great for the first two months but then they started pilling!” one customer wrote last month of the “rhythmic tight” leggings. “I got them less than six months ago and the pilling makes them almost unwearable, but worse they’re beginning to get see through!”
Another customer wrote in June 2013: “After one wash, the pants started to pill.”
A majority of the reviews are positive, however, and girls seem to love the brand.
Here are two models wearing clothing and a headband made by Ivivva:
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