September 23, 2008, 12:00 AM

Gap fills athletic apparel slot with purchase of Athleta

Gap Inc. said yesterday it will buy women’s active apparel retailer Athleta Inc. for about $150 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in the next two weeks.

Gap Inc. said yesterday it will buy women’s active apparel retailer Athleta Inc. for about $150 million in cash. Gap says buying Athleta, which sells online and by catalog, will help it tap the growing $31 billion women’s athletic clothing business in the U.S. The deal enhances Gap’s s e-commerce offerings at a time when store sales are lagging.

The Athleta apparel line will take up a fifth tab on Gap’s e-commerce site labeled Universality. The tab system lets shoppers browse and buy from all of Gap’s retail sites-Gap, shoe store Piperlime, higher-end clothing retailer Banana Republic and lower-cost apparel merchant Old Navy-in one cart and for one shipping fee. The retail chain launched its multi-store shopping feature in June.

For the second quarter ending Aug. 2, Gap, No. 24 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, reported web sales grew by 11% to $191 million from $172 million in Q2 of 2007. Gap’s total sales fell 5.4% to $3.5 billion from $3.7 billion in the second quarter of the prior year, and same-store sales declined year over year by 10%.

Joe Teno, CEO of Athleta will stay on, reporting to Toby Lenk, president of the Gap Inc. Direct division. Petaluma, CA-based Athleta launched 10 years ago and offers apparel for such activities as yoga, running and skiing. It has 250 employees.

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