These 5 Companies Are Profiting From an Exercise Created 5,000 Years Ago

On Wednesday, June 21, International Yoga Day, five apparel companies may want thank the practice known as yoga and created more than 5,000 years ago in northern India that has helped to line their pockets.

The practice's popularity has transformed the consumer active-apparel market as well as the fitness regimes of its devotees, who tout its many physical and mental health benefits.

It was Indian prime minister Narendra Modi who proposed in 2014 yoga's observance annually on the summer solstice. The United Nations endorsed the proposal in December 2014, with the first commemoration held on June 21, 2015.

For this year's celebration, the Permanent Mission of Indian to the United Nations is organizing it with the theme of Yoga for Health and has scheduled events, including free yoga classes in Times Square.

Read on to see which companies have benefited.

Lululemon
Lululemon
A yoga class.

Yogis have long been an important customer for Lululemon Athletica Inc. (LULU) . The company's stores frequently offer free yoga classes as well as other fitness classes. Lululemon also operates an "ambassador" program, essentially a yoga-focused influencer network. "We're very focused on our grassroots model," CEO Laurent Potdevin told CNBC in 2015. "So don't expect to see us endorse big teams around the world anytime soon." While Lululemon hasn't been immune to the general retail slowdown this year, a digital push contributed to stronger first-quarter earnings.

For that quarter, ending April 30, despite a same-store sales drop, net revenue rose 5% year-over-year to about $530 million, and earnings (excluding restructuring costs) of 32 cents per share exceeded analysts' expectations. 

Under Armour
Under Armour
Lululemon founder Chip Wilson.

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson is no fan of archrival Under Armour Inc. (UA) -he's even argued half-jokingly that Lululemon should acquire the sneaker maker to prove its dominance. Kevin Plank, CEO of Baltimore-based Under Armour, has targeted women's apparel and footwear, including yoga products, as a source of continued growth.

The women's business hit $1 billion in revenue in 2016, which Plank called "a huge milestone for our brand" during an April 27 earnings call.

Unlike Lululemon, Under Armour has boosted its women's and yoga businesses by teaming up with celebrities, including ballerina Misty Copeland, yoga teacher Kathryn Budig and model Gisele Bündchen.

Nike
Nike
Leah Kim in a yoga pose.

Nike Inc. (NKE) , the world's most valuable sports brand, has had a "Global Yoga Ambassador," California yoga guru Leah Kim, on its payroll since 2009 to plug its yoga offerings. Kim has contributed to the Nike Training Club app, which features yoga among its large variety of workouts. Although most yoga is performed barefoot, Nike offers slipper-like Studio Wrap shoes intended for yoga, Pilates and dance. Nike also partners with yoga studios for its Nike Yoga Camps for Kids, offered in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont.

Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein
A model displays her flexibility in Calvin Klein yoga wear.

Lululemon sued Calvin Klein, owned by PVH Corp. (PVH) , in Delaware court in 2012 for allegedly copying the design of its Astro yoga pants. Calvin Klein and its supplier, G-III Apparel Group Ltd. (GIII) , settled the dispute a few months later in November 2012. Calvin Klein's yoga offerings are sold at retailers, including Macy's Inc. (M) and Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN) .

Old Navy
Old Navy
An Old Navy store.

Gap Inc.'s (GPS) Old Navy offers a popular and cheaper alternative to Lululemon and other pricey yoga apparel: Old Navy's yoga pants, for example, cost about $20, compared to $100 at Lululemon. Jill Stanton, who served as interim president of Old Navy after the departure of Stefan Larsson, joined Old Navy as executive vice president for product development and design after a long career at Nike. Stanton touted activewear as a source of growth, and Old Navy's growth has propped up Gap's stock amid lagging sales at Gap and Banana Republic.

Advertisement

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.

More from Stocks

In Trump Era, Managing JPMorgan Is As Unpredictable As a Midnight Tweet

In Trump Era, Managing JPMorgan Is As Unpredictable As a Midnight Tweet

Video: Don't Underestimate China's Strength in a Trade War

Video: Don't Underestimate China's Strength in a Trade War

Tesla: What Are Wall Street's Best Analysts Saying Now?

Tesla: What Are Wall Street's Best Analysts Saying Now?

Master Limited Partnerships: A Badly Missed Investment Opportunity?

Master Limited Partnerships: A Badly Missed Investment Opportunity?

Top Analysts Say Gamble On These 3 Ace Stocks

Top Analysts Say Gamble On These 3 Ace Stocks