Carrie Underwood Talks New Calia Pop-up Shops

Carrie Underwood’s Calia brand is still growing.

The singer’s fitness and ath-leisure apparel brand launched five years ago through retail partner Dick’s Sporting Goods, growing into the retailer’s second most popular women’s brand. So Dick’s set out to experiment this holiday season, even amid an ongoing pandemic, with three of Calia’s first retail pop-ups, one each in Nashville, Austin and Santa Monica.

“It’s all about finding new, fun ways to keep things fresh and definitely, we want to see how things go,” Underwood said, speaking over Zoom from her home in Tennessee. She added that Nashville, where the Calia pop-up shop will be mobile, and Austin are areas where the brand is already popular. But she’s hoping to lure some new customers as well.

“We have a great fan base. I feel weird calling it a fan base, but we do get a lot of support from these areas,” she said.

As for whether the pop-ups are an effort that could lead to more permanent, stand-alone retail for Calia, Underwood said, “One step at a time.” She added that the brand does well within Dick’s locations and has also been selling well online, particularly this year as stores were closed for a time due to COVID-19 and in-store traffic has yet to fully rebound with the virus spreading anew at record levels in many states. 

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The Calia pop-ups will be taking coronavirus precautions, like regular cleaning of surfaces and “high-touch” areas, employees in face masks and shoppers also required to wear a face mask to enter the stores.

Holiday was always the plan for pop-ups this year, according to Melissa Christian, Dick’s vice president of global brand and category marketing, so there was no date change due to the pandemic. And the retailer is looking to Calia and the pop-ups in order to expand its offering to women.

“Over the past year we’ve seen an increase in sales from our female consumer, and Dick’s in general is thinking more about women and reaching her more,” Christian said. “Calia has been an amazing brand to do that, to offer products to women who maybe haven’t shopped as much at Dick’s.”

Christian would not specify sales figures for Calia, but noted the brand is the retailer’s second best-selling label for women. She did say the pop-ups are more of an “experiment” at this stage, a way for Dick’s to see how women shop, or how people who are buying gifts for women shop.

“I think we’ll learn a ton,” Christian said. “We have the opportunity with this to reach women who are huge fans of Calia and get in front of new ones.”

For her part, Underwood is pleased with the direction of the brand, which began as fitness apparel and has expanded into more comfort separates, all with “functionality as our number-one priority.”

“When we have our design meetings, I’m like, ‘Where are the pockets?’ ‘Where can I put my phone?’” she said. Underwood is the lead designer of Calia, although on occasion an item becomes popular against her expectations.

“For the longest time I’m like, ‘Who is buying these bike shorts?’” she said. “Now you see them all over with chunky sweaters and it’s like, who knew! And they sell really, really well for us. At first I was resistant to it, but now I find myself wearing them, too.”

And it seems that Underwood, who also started fitness app Fit52, is happy in the health and fitness lifestyle business space she’s carved out for herself.

“I feel this is a space I know and am comfortable with and can contribute to,” She said. “And through all of this, it feels like people trust me, because it’s a space I’m passionate about.”

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