Dick’s is launching its new line Second Skin online first to expose more shoppers to the brand. It plans on rolling out the apparel to its stores later this year.

Sporting goods retail chain Dick’s Sporting Goods is testing out a private-label athletic wear brand online in hopes of easing the apparel into the market.

Called Second Skin, Dick’s recently launched the performance apparel brand online first rather than in store to gauge consumer response, says Ryan Eckel, vice president of brand at Dick’s.

“We initially want athletes to discover the brand rather than be loud and in their face right from day one, and an online launch gives us the best opportunity to do that,” he says. “Later this year, Second Skin will expand to include a wider assortment of athletic apparel and will be available both in stores and online.”

Launching Second Skin online initially helped Dick’s, No. 56 in the just-released 2017 Internet Retailer U.S. Top 1000, reach a greater audience quicker, Eckel says.

To help get the word out, Dick’s has enlisted several prominent athletes including marathon runner Ryan Hall and obstacle course racer Hunter McIntyre. Eckel says the retailer plans on using the social media presence of the 200-plus athletes it has enlisted to build a buzz around the brand.

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“These athletes will be Second Skin ambassadors to their communities across the country,” he says.

Dick’s is the largest sporting goods retailer in the U.S. Top 1,000, having done $942.7 million in online sales in 2016, up 25.9% from an Internet Retailer-estimated $748.9 million the previous year. The sporting goods sector has been hit by a number of bankruptcies over the past year including those of Sports Authority, Golfsmith and Sports Chalet.

Second Skin is the latest private-label brand that Dick’s has added to its stable, which includes golf apparel line Walter Hagen, women’s workout apparel line CALIA and sports equipment brand Primed. Eckel says having a stable of private-label brands helps separate Dick’s from its  competition.

“Private brands offer an opportunity to provide our customers additional options for quality products, often at a lower price point,” he says.

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