Target StoresTarget (TGT) will make a play for fitness enthusiasts with the fall launch of an activewear store based on its C9 by Champion brand, marking the chain's first spin-off retail concept.

With C9 Active Apparel, Target is dipping its discount-store toe into the booming athleticwear market occupied by expanding high-end retailers like Lululemon Athletica (LULU) and Gap's Athleta chain (GPS).

The 3,000-square-foot C9 store will open on Oct. 14 in a ground floor space in San Francisco's Metreon Shopping Center, where a 100,000 square foot CityTarget (the discounter's urban format) will also debut. But C9 won't bear the Target name, nor feature the iconic Bullseye logo.

San Francisco, with its high proportion of fitness-minded residents, is a natural venue for C9, Jessica Deed, a Target spokeswoman, told DailyFinance.

The store will offer a full assortment of athletic apparel and gear for men and women, including everything from running shorts and yoga pants to sports bras, water bottles and yoga mats. While pricing information for the new store isn't yet available, items in the C9 by Champion line at Target currently retail for under $50, "with the majority of pieces available for less than $30," Deed says.

By contrast, a trip to a Lululemon in New York City turned up little merchandise selling for less than $50. The product mix included items like women's yoga pants for $86, a sports bra for $48 and men's cycling tees for $54.

With C9, Target could be angling to differentiate itself from retailers like Lululemon and Athleta, and brands such as Under Armour, by offering a lower priced activewear option, Tim Shimotakahara, vice president of investment banking for D.A. Davidson & Co., tells DailyFinance.

Target active apparel

Still, the C9 move is somewhat surprising for the chic-cheaper discounter. Why would Target, the nation's only mass-merchant couturier -- known for its high-profile brand partnerships with upscale designers like Missoni and Jean Paul Gaultier -- pick athleticwear as its new retail concept? Because it sells, Deeds explained. "C9 has really grown into one of Target's most popular brands."

What's more, activewear is "a hot, growing market that has significantly higher profit margins than many other product categories," Shimotakahara says. Active outdoor apparel alone, excluding team sports related garments, generates an estimated $3.6 billion in sales, he says, citing figures from the Outdoor Industry Association.

And Americans' increasingly informal lifestyle is creating a stronger demand for fitness fashion. "You see people wearing activewear in all different social situations," he says.

While Deeds said there are no plans per se to expand the C9 concept beyond that one store, industry analysts are betting that if it does well, Target will do just that.

"Target has obviously paid attention to the success of specialty retailers like Lululemon and Athleta, and the same concept at mass price points could be a winner," said Richard Seesel, a principal at Retailing in Focus LLC, in an online forum about C9 on RetailWire.

The store's boutique size "also follows the trend of 'smaller is better' relative to the massive scale of sporting goods stores like Dick's and The Sports Authority, where fitness-wear is a small part of the assortment," he said. C9 "has a lot of growth opportunity across the country."

But one analyst wondered if by going with the Champion label, Target is banking on a brand that's past its sell date, particularly when it has to vie with the trendy image of stores like Lululemon, for one.

"Champion doesn't have that cachet," said the analyst.

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dont shop at target. when it comes down US VET's target considers vietnam a POLICE ACTION. so no discounts for vets who fought there as it wasnt a war.................................

May 14 2012 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Target's clothes are cheaply made and do not wear well. Unfortunately, they are cute, so I put my hard-earned money down in the hope that this time it will be different. One wash and the clothes end up with pills or holes. I've sworn off Target's clothes.

May 13 2012 at 8:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to suemisey's comment

I agree with those facts, plus the fact that cheaply made clothes quite often are made with itchy, scratchy plastic thread and bulky stitched seams...sometimes in the most personal areas of the body, Sadly, I will probably buy some of Penny's, Kohls, Target's, etc. clothes, because my husband will be retiring in the near future and we have health issues which are more important to budget for, than good American made clothes. I wish our out-sourced clothes were not out-sourced and made for better and longer comfort.

May 14 2012 at 12:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Unfortunately, C9 doesn't seem to come in plus sizes, so I guess that explains why so many people who are about to lose weight wear this stuff in public. In reality the muffin top is only fashionable when it comes in exotic flavors like blueberry and orange cranberry. A racer back should should only be worn if you actually fit in it--even if you actually ARE at the gym.

May 13 2012 at 4:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thanks for letting me know that this is a Target operation so I can add them to my list of places not to shop. Target used to be my everything store. Then I found that they were donating to candidates that were so homophobic that they belonged to so called christian groups that favored killing GLBT Americans. Target is still trying to claim they didn't know. What kind of idiot gives money to candidates without knowing where they stand on important issues? I know that until Target offers a sincere, very public apology, they won't be donating any of MY money to such monsters.

May 13 2012 at 3:35 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Target comes out with two new concept stores. Now if ONLY they could figure out how to get the merchandise out of their back rooms and on to the sales floor. They have millions of dollars tied up in inventory that hardly makes it to the sales floor in a timely manner. The corporate buyers don't have a clue how to order for the Super Targets, especially in meat, produce and grocery. If they order too much and have a ton of product left in the warehouse, they just ship it out to the stores with NO REGARD if that store can even sell it. They can't can't make a decent forecast of sales and don't know how to read the history of store sales.

May 13 2012 at 12:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I wonder which retailer will hop on the "gay" wear market. An exclusive department targeting homosexual fashion ware. Probably Sears. This will be their last gasp before finally going under!

May 12 2012 at 9:55 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pm0501's comment

My guess is KMart, Sears is still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

May 13 2012 at 12:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donation Can

I'm a marathon runner and I wear Target athletic wear religiously. I love their sports bras, tops and running shorts. I'm also planning to commute via bicycle to school and wear athletic wear everyday. This makes me very excited!

May 12 2012 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Donation Can's comment

I bet it does make you all excited. Running is a selfish sport anyway. Go out and get a real life.

May 13 2012 at 12:27 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to petpetdonna's comment

Okay...Care to elaborate on your observation of running being a "selfish sport"?

May 13 2012 at 12:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

How is running a selfish sport? It's one of the hardest sports you can do. You can't stop in the middle of running.

May 13 2012 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down