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Apparel retailers welcome Under Armour flagship store to Harbor East

Leighann Greenbalgh visited the new Under Armour Brand House in Harbor East earlier this week and was impressed with the store’s “hometown vibe,” including the shirt emblazoned with “Fells Point.”

Text on the window of the Lululemon store in Harbor East welcomes Under Armour to the neighborhood. (The Daily Record/Kelsey Miller)

Greenbalgh said she comes to Harbor East often but was worried about how the new store would affect other sporting goods shops in the neighborhood.

“I feel like it might take away from City Sports,” she said.

Just around the corner from Under Armour’s Brand House, Evan Weber, store manager for City Sports, said he was excited about the new addition.

“Their presence will be a plus for the area,” Weber said. “It’ll bring more traffic to Harbor East.”

Managers at City Sports and nearby Lululemon, which also sells athletic apparel, say they welcome the increased traffic and unique products the Brand House has brought to the area.

“We’re really excited,” said Briana Wagner, store manager for Lululemon. “It’s really cool to see a local business that’s a success.”

While the managers’ outlooks might seem counterintuitive, retail experts say they have the right attitude.

“I think there would be no issue in terms of siphoning off sales,” said Jesse Tron, spokesman for International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade organization.

Sports-oriented shoppers coming to the area may shop in the Brand House, then go to another store for a more specific type of sporting equipment, Tron said.

“A lot of times, retailers want to be near other retailers within the same category,” Tron said. “They should work harmoniously.”

The first-of-its-kind Brand House, which opened Saturday at the base of the Legg Mason building, features 6,100 square feet of retail space as well as an “Innovation Center” where shoppers can view some of Under Armour’s latest apparel and gadgets.

“We are excited to bring this specialty store to our hometown of Baltimore and expand our commitment to the community through local partnership activations, exclusive Baltimore-inspired product offerings, and the introduction of a more educational, interactive and rewarding shopping experience,” said Henry Stafford, Under Armour’s senior vice president for apparel, accessories and outdoor.

Weber said the Brand House, with its focus on innovation and testing, has a different set of options from City Sports, which has basic Under Armour products.

Under Armour used the Harbor East City Sports as a gauge to see what demand in the area is like, he added, and made clear City Sports was still important to them, Weber said.

“It has not put a crimp on our business,” he said.

Across the street from City Sports, Lululemon, a specialty store for yoga and running, has a sign in its window: “Welcome Under Armour. Mi casa es su casa.”

Wagner, the store manager, has also seen more shoppers in the past few days. Lululemon and Under Armour have similar health and fitness philosophies but are not competitors, she said.

“We sell relatively different products,” Wagner said.

Meghan McCloskey, marketing manager for Harbor East Management Group, said in a statement the Brand House fits nicely with the development’s mix of national retailers and local and regional shops.

“It would only be a boon long-term to have good, quality retailers in the area,” said Tron, the ICSC spokesman.

Boston-based City Sports has been in its Harbor East location for seven years, and Weber has seen a recent increase in business as more retailers and restaurants are opening in the area.

“Sales and traffic have been affected by the change in dynamic down here,” he said. “As each year has progressed the store has grown exponentially.”