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Posted Date: 5/1/2003

Casual Lifestyle Wear Dominates Super Show 2003

Do you or does anyone you know own velour jogging pants? What about yoga pants or spa pants? If the answer is "yes," welcome to the trend sweeping the sporting apparel industry.

This "retro" look, characterized by loose-fitting yoga attire, Y-tanks and velour sweats reminiscent of the 1970s, stands as clothing that can be worn while relaxing or running errands. The trend was in evidence at company after company exhibiting at The Super Show 2003, held this past January in Las Vegas, NV. From traditional running companies like New Balance to up-and-comers like Persona Activewear, the fashion direction is garnering attention . and sales.

Katie Healey, CEO and president of Personal Activewear, began selling her cover-ups, poly-Lycra workout pants and 100 percent cotton robes, pants and jackets to gyms and spas but soon realized the opportunity in front of her. "I realized these women found the clothes so comfortable, they weren't just wearing them to the gym. They wore them to the grocery or wherever," noted Healey.

So the former designer and merchandiser for Esprit, The Limited and Express cranked up production in a San Diego, CA, facility, and is now targeting firms such as Dick's Sporting Goods to sell her collections.

Yoga attire also was a focus at AmericanApparel.net, which showcased yoga pants as part of its collection. The company has more than 2,500 SKUs in 30 colors, running the gamut from Y-tanks to bras to T-shirts, all being produced in its Los Angeles, CA, facility, which employs more than 100 and has a capacity of more than 100,000 T-shirts daily.

In other Super Show highlights, Champion introduced its new FrictionFreeT technology, which when placed in strategic areas of garments, significantly reduces chafing. This low-friction fiber technology is available in jogging bras, singlets, shorts and tights. Another addition to Champion's line is a moisture management treatment that repels liquids and resists stains. "You can't repel a grass stain, but this will make it easier to get rid of," said Meg Wilson, Champion representative.

Footwear giant Asics staked a claim in the apparel market with its new collections. Dina DeFazio, assistant manger, public relations and marketing communications, noted: "Casual Sunday is not about khakis anymore. It's casual sportswear." The Asics apparel lines include: ThermopolisT, for a wide range of temperatures; ZulaT, for moisture transfer; UtilityT, for enhanced visibility; and the Duotech performance apparel system, for all climactic needs. Additionally, the company has released a new line of high-performance socks, which provide a high-density pile, motion control and structured cushioning.

Slightly off the beaten path at the show was eBay, which offered "eBay University" seminars on new online avenues for sales growth. Bob Holden, category manager for sporting goods business at eBay, noted that with 61.7 million registered users and $14.9 billion in sales in 2002, eBay is a "vibrant marketplace" waiting to be tapped. In the collectibles category on the site, 60 percent of merchandise is related to sporting goods apparel. Within that sports marketplace, sellers are offering personal pages and stores totally devoted to clothing, shoes and accessories. At any given time on eBay, more than 20,000 shorts and jerseys and more than 15,000 pairs of shoes are for sale.

As for the state of the sporting goods industry as a whole, things are healthy. In terms of production, the manufacture of sports apparel is up slightly from 2001, with $21.8 billion's worth of goods produced in 2002, though figures are still down from the 2000 high of $22.5 billion, according to SGMA International (SGMA-I), producer of The Super Show. Consumer spending for sports apparel increased by 2.5 percent in 2002, according to estimates by The NPD Group and SGMA-I. Within this category, active sports apparel, including sportswear with performance features, was up 10 percent.

In commenting on the 2003 Super Show, SGMA-I director of communications and sports development Mike May said: "The show was very solid. There are always areas for improvement, and we're working on those, but it continues to be the largest show for sports in this country and one of the largest in the world."

While official attendance figures had not been released as of press time, May said the number of buyers and amount of exhibit space were up this year from 2002, and the percentage of industry firms exhibiting at the show was comparable to previous years. 

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