Yoga wars heat up as Levi’s Beyond Yoga taps former Athleta CEO, Gap veteran as next chief executive

Beyond Yoga

Courtesy: Beyond Yoga

Levi Strauss’ Beyond Yoga has tapped former Athleta CEO and longtime Gap veteran Nancy Green to be its next chief executive, as the company looks to scale beyond its modest roots and compete with industry leaders such as Lululemon and upstarts such as Alo Yoga and Vuori.  

Beyond Yoga’s founder Michelle Wahler, along with its Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Jesse Adams, will both be stepping down. Green is slated to take the reins on Feb. 1, the company said in a news release. 

Wahler and Adams will stay on as advisors to ensure a smooth transition, the company said.

“We have arrived at a natural inflection point for this incredible brand,” Levi’s incoming CEO Michelle Gass said in a statement. “As we pursue the next stage of growth, we believe Nancy has the experience to fully unlock the potential of Beyond Yoga by leveraging her impressive retail expertise and [Levi Strauss’] extensive global resources and capabilities.” 

The leadership shift comes as Beyond Yoga looks to scale and set itself apart in an increasingly crowded athletic apparel space. Retailers such as Lululemon and Nike have long dominated the category, with Beyond Yoga and Gap-owned Athleta following close behind. But upstarts such as Alo Yoga and Vuori have been nipping at their heels and taking market share. 

Lululemon customers spent 7.1% and 3% of their active and athleisure dollars at Vuori and Alo Yoga, respectively, during the holiday shopping season in December, BTIG’s Janine Stichter wrote in a research note, which cited a wallet analyst from Earnest.

Meanwhile, during Levi’s most recent quarter ending Aug. 27, sales at Beyond Yoga increased 25%. In Gap’s quarter ending Oct. 28, sales at Athleta fell 18%.

As these companies compete, they have also poached one another’s top talent. In August, Athleta named former Alo Yoga President Chris Blakeslee its next CEO.

Now, Athleta’s former CEO is joining Beyond Yoga. 

Nancy Green

Courtesy: Beyond Yoga

Green started her career as a New York stylist and went on to spend about 25 years with Gap. She worked her way up from a merchandiser to president and CEO of Athleta, a position she held for six years, according to her LinkedIn profile. 

During her time with Athleta, she reshaped and innovated its product line, enhanced sustainability efforts and grew sales from $250 million to nearly $1 billion. She also expanded Athleta’s store footprint from 39 to 175. Green developed a set of skills that will be crucial at Beyond Yoga, which is embarking on a similar growth plan. 

Founded in 2005 in Los Angeles, Beyond Yoga started out selling its leggings and tops in yoga studios and gyms. After garnering a cult-like following, it expanded its wholesale partnerships to a slew of retailers, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Revolve. 

Levi acquired Beyond Yoga in 2021 for $400 million. In fiscal 2022, it brought in nearly $100 million in revenue for the apparel retailer. 

Levi has focused on wholesale partnerships since it was founded in 1853, but under outgoing CEO Chip Bergh’s leadership, it has worked to build out its direct-to-consumer channel — a strategy that extends to Beyond Yoga. The brand opened its first store in 2022, and has now expanded to six locations, with direct-to-consumer sales consistently growing double digits year over year. 

The company is set to report earnings next week.

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