The line between sportswear and fashion has blurred in recent years, as the popularity of women’s leggings and yoga pants and men’s tailored sweatpants and joggers demonstrates. In her tenure as Chief Merchandising Officer at Sports Authority, Gwen Manto watched the role of traditional sporting goods stores shift from purveyors of athletic wear to de facto fashion apparel retailers. Whether it’s so-called athleisure wear or wearable technology, Manto tells GLG, sporting goods companies have a “responsibility” to provide consumers with “that next great thing.” For Manto, keeping an edge as a retailer means focusing on product innovation.
Gwen Manto currently serves on the Management Board at Aloha.com as an equity owner and consultant. Prior to that, she served as Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer at Sports Authority from 2010 to January 2012, where she was responsible for overseeing merchandising, planning and allocation, brand development, and worldwide sourcing for 462 full sporting goods stores. She previously held the same title at Dick’s Sporting Goods from 2006 to 2009, which operates over 400 full line sporting goods stores and 84 golf specialty stores. Before her time at Dick’s, Manto was EVP of Softlines at Sears, Roebuck & Company (2004-05), where she led the apparel and soft home categories to over $6.5 billion in revenue. In 1999, Manto joined the Stein Mart team as Chief Merchandising Officer and subsequently became Vice Chairman (2000-03). She was responsible for merchandising and marketing for this 270 store chain. Before joining Stein Mart, Manto was President of Kid’s Foot Locker (1998-2000), and she has also held senior roles at Kids ‘R’ Us, Babies ‘R’ Us, Rich’s and Macy’s.