Australian luxury brand Aje is set to open 11 new stores for its Aje Athletica brand, following strong performance from the brand.
Aje co-founder and CEO Adrian Norris told Ragtrader that since launch in May 2021, the brand has sold more in three months than the mainline Aje brand did in 12 months, five years ago.
The active, eco-conscious sub-brand has also attracted a new customer to the business, with 44% of Aje Athletica's customers shopping with the Aje business for the first time.
To meet this demand, the business will open 11 stores across AMP and Scentre Group premium centres.
Pending NSW lockdowns, Aje Athletica's first store will open in Scentre Group's Westfield Sydney in late September, with the second opening in AMP's Karrinyup in October.
However, Norris said that the store openings haven't come without their challenges.
"[Opening the stores during lockdown] has probably been the most complicated part about this.
"It's not about the sales, it's not about the customers.
"It's the logistics of trying to open the stores, whilst everything's locked down.
"So, we're just rolling with the punches. We are building stores where were allowed to build them.
"Hopefully there'll be four or five of them finished by the time some sort of a lockdown ends and we can start opening them.
"But we have a lot of support from Scentre Group and AMP, so it's not as stressful as it sounds," he said.
When the stores are allowed to open, customers will be greeted by a 'gallerised' shopping experience, reminiscent of luxury fashion boutiques.
The stores will be bigger - at 150 sqm - than Aje's mainline boutiques, simply because of the need to house more product.
Aje Athletica's range offers a full gamut of 'performance wear through the lens of the Aje fashion house' which includes compression tights, yoga leggings, training leggings, sports bras, bike shorts and lifestyle pieces.
"My whole condition on creating a sub brand, was that it had to have authenticity and that it was based on performance," Norris said.
"I wanted to be able to show a complete wardrobe for every performance base, I didn't want this to be a token brand that did leggings.
"So that's why they're bigger stores because we're going to need more product, and to give customers that whole experience.
"The stores are definitely unlike any other athletic store that's out there at the moment, we really wanted to give it that high fashion service proposition.
"The design is really incredible - we've designed some really breathtaking stores and they're so different to how you usually shop athletic wear.
"We're calling them the Sanctuaries; so it's about the wellness journey and coming and getting your whole outfit, your whole look," Norris said.
Scentre Group director of leasing and retail solutions, John Papagiannis said the business was thrilled to bring the new stores to it centres.
"Aje is a brand that is really well aligned to the Westfield customer, so we’re really pleased to be growing the Aje offer across our portfolio with the opening of its new standalone Aje Athletica stores.
"Aje Athletica represents wellbeing and performance with a focus on sustainability and Australian heritage which is an exciting proposition.
"We know our customers will value and enjoy the new Aje Athletica store experience and we look forward to welcoming seven new Aje Athletica stores to the Westfield portfolio, across New South Wales, Victoria and in New Zealand throughout the remainder of the year and into 2022," he said.
AMP Capital head of retail Marco Ettore echoed Papagiannis' comments.
"This exciting new concept responds to the evolving needs of Aje's loyal customers and demonstrates our shared commitment to creating compelling physical retail experiences for our customers.
"We are honoured that Aje have chosen our newly developed Karrinyup centre as one of the first standalone locations to bring Aje Athletica to life.
"We are looking forward to discussing other locations in the AMP Capital portfolio to continue our partnership and help this new brand grow," he said.
In addition to its new Athletica stores, Aje will open three new mainline stores in the City of Sydney in the coming months, with new stores at The Intersection in Paddington, Westfield Sydney and the Strand Arcade in the CBD set to open.
By the end of FY21/22 Aje will have a portfolio of 33 stores across Australia, including the new Aje Athletica stores.