We went to Athleta and saw why the brand is one of Gap's secret weapons

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Athleta 50 Business Insider/Sarah Schmalbruch Outside Athleta's Fifth Avenue location in New York City.

Athleta is about to expand across America in a big way.

Gap Inc. announced earlier this week that it will be opening around 270 Athleta and Old Navy stores in the next three years, while closing 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores in that same time period.

Athleta, Gap's athleisure brand, has thrived while many brands have struggled in the difficult retail climate of recent years. The company said that it expects the openings to bolster Athleta sales to over $1 billion in the next few years.

Athleisure - the trend of wearing activewear in everyday life - has become the apparel of choice for many Americans over the last several years. As of 2016, activewear had become a $45.9 billion market for retailers, according to data from the NPD Group .

We took a trip to Athleta's Fifth Avenue store in New York City to see firsthand why Athleta has become one of Gap's most successful brands.

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They were spacious, well-lit, and had full mirrors.

They were spacious, well-lit, and had full mirrors.

Overall, we found the Athleta store to be well-organized. There was no shortage of options; the brand offered styles for every kind of activity. Plus, the prices seemed to be line with the quality of the clothing.

Our last stop in the store were the changing rooms.

Our last stop in the store were the changing rooms.

Mechanic says part of the reason she enjoys shopping at Athleta is because she feels the brand provides customers with an experience rather than just a product.

Mechanic says part of the reason she enjoys shopping at Athleta is because she feels the brand provides customers with an experience rather than just a product.

Just behind the sale section we noticed The Studio, where Athleta holds the free fitness classes advertised on the sign we first saw outside the store.

Just behind the sale section we noticed The Studio, where Athleta holds the free fitness classes advertised on the sign we first saw outside the store.

We took a quick look at the sale rack, which was filled with everything from tights to tops to bras.

We took a quick look at the sale rack, which was filled with everything from tights to tops to bras.

Mechanic said she regularly checks Athleta's sale section and says she's found tights for $69, which she's then bought for $49 after using the rewards she gets through the brand's credit card.

In an effort to be a one-stop-shop for moms, Athleta also has a line called Athleta Girl.

In an effort to be a one-stop-shop for moms, Athleta also has a line called Athleta Girl.

There were racks of puffy vests and jackets ideal for the imminent cooler temperatures.

There were racks of puffy vests and jackets ideal for the imminent cooler temperatures.

The store's "explore" section had outdoor wear that looked suited for a hiking or camping trip.

The store's "explore" section had outdoor wear that looked suited for a hiking or camping trip.

The brand's on-the-go tights are much more fashion-forward, and they feature accents like leather and zippers.

The brand's on-the-go tights are much more fashion-forward, and they feature accents like leather and zippers.

Alexa Mechanic, who says she's a regular Athleta shopper, says she likes that Athleta offers tights that can transition from her office to yoga or to the gym.

"Their everyday clothes are just super comfortable for work and can be camouflaged into semi business casual attire," she said.

... and plenty of basic tees.

... and plenty of basic tees.

... as well as blouses ...

... as well as blouses ...

There were sweaters that could easily be worn with jeans ...

There were sweaters that could easily be worn with jeans ...

The store's lounge and everyday wear looked just as enticing as their workout wear.

The store's lounge and everyday wear looked just as enticing as their workout wear.

Pretty much all of Athleta's training gear is made with Lycra, an elastic fiber that's known for its strength. Lycra allows clothes to stretch with you as you work out.

Pretty much all of Athleta's training gear is made with Lycra, an elastic fiber that's known for its strength. Lycra allows clothes to stretch with you as you work out.

We also noticed that while Athleta's prices weren't cheap, they seemed to be lower than some competitors'.

We also noticed that while Athleta's prices weren't cheap, they seemed to be lower than some competitors'.

Kirchner says she likes to shop at the store when she's prepared to splurge a little. "I like that they're not as expensive as Lululemon, but you still get a good-quality product," she said.

The shorts were organized in a similar way, depending on length. Their prices range from $44 to $59.

The shorts were organized in a similar way, depending on length. Their prices range from $44 to $59.

The store's sports bra section made it clear to us that the brand offers options for all shapes and sizes. They ranged from $44 to $72.

The store's sports bra section made it clear to us that the brand offers options for all shapes and sizes. They ranged from $44 to $72.

Kirchner, who owns an Athleta sports bra, says she feels that Athleta offers more sports bra styles than many other athletic stores.

"I feel like a lot of places only have one style of sports bra, and it kind of limits you depending on how you're shaped," she said.

The store's Sculptek tights have a waistband that features three layers of mesh designed to hold in and smooth over your midsection.

The store's Sculptek tights have a waistband that features three layers of mesh designed to hold in and smooth over your midsection.

Rachel Kirchner, a regular Athleta shopper, told Business Insider that she likes the brand because its clothes fit her a lot better than most other athletic stores, and that they don't leave anything "hanging out."

Helpful signs were placed all over the store, explaining the different styles. For example, there's the salutation tight, which one sales associate described as feeling like "butter" on your skin and being ideal for yoga.

Helpful signs were placed all over the store, explaining the different styles. For example, there's the salutation tight, which one sales associate described as feeling like "butter" on your skin and being ideal for yoga.

The tights are available in full length or seven-eighths length, and they range in price from $69 to $108, depending on their length and what level of activity they're best for.

The tights are available in full length or seven-eighths length, and they range in price from $69 to $108, depending on their length and what level of activity they're best for.

Athleta's training gear is what it's best known for. The brand has a seemingly endless array of tights, or what some customers call leggings.

Athleta's training gear is what it's best known for. The brand has a seemingly endless array of tights, or what some customers call leggings.

The store is organized into five sections determined by the type of activity its apparel is best for: train, restore, travel, on-the-go, and explore.

The store is organized into five sections determined by the type of activity its apparel is best for: train, restore, travel, on-the-go, and explore.

Upon entering the store, we were greeted by a table of neatly folded leggings and mannequins sporting a mix of workout clothes and loungewear.

Upon entering the store, we were greeted by a table of neatly folded leggings and mannequins sporting a mix of workout clothes and loungewear.

The first thing we noticed when walking into Athleta was a sign outside advertising free workout classes taking place in the store's downstairs fitness studio.

The first thing we noticed when walking into Athleta was a sign outside advertising free workout classes taking place in the store's downstairs fitness studio.

Athleta offers classes taught by its own brand ambassadors or by instructors from other fitness studios around the city. The brand is also the apparel sponsor for Girls on the Run and hosts meetings for the group at its stores.

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