By  on June 29, 2005

NEW YORK — Nike Inc.'s women's merchandise is a key focus for the company and a driver for growth domestically and around the world, said Mindy Grossman, the company's vice president of global apparel, at a Nike investor meeting here Tuesday.

"We have had an evolution in how Nike is thinking of women and sport," Grossman said. "There is a very strong connection between the gym world and outside ... Women look for more than function in apparel."

Grossman outlined a series of initiatives the company is taking to expand its women's business, including new product categories and innovations such as dance fitness, women-specific footwear molds and new in-store Nike shops at department stores, with head-to-toe coordinated looks.

Grossman was one of a number of Nike executives who spoke to a packed house of analysts and investors at the company's offices at 45 West 18th Street here. William D. Perez, the athletic company's new president and chief executive officer, addressed the crowd in his first formal meeting with the financial community.

"We have unlimited opportunities to grow the Nike brand," said Perez, who added that joining Nike has been an "amazing ride" and joked about how excitement at his last job came from killing bugs and cleaning windows. Perez, an avid runner and sport enthusiast, was formerly ceo at S.C. Johnson & Co., the consumer products giant. "The multibrand approach really excites us. While the Nike brand is the lifeblood, we will see increasing business from other brands."

While executives overseeing different regions and product segments were on hand, Philip Knight, Nike's founder and legendary ceo, did not attend the meeting. Knight is chairman but no longer runs the day-to-day operations of the company.

On Monday, Nike, the world's largest athletic company, reported a 15 percent spike in earnings and a 6.7 percent gain in sales for the fourth quarter, driven by increases in most regions and product categories, although apparel saw a slight decline. After seeing its shares fall $3.58 Monday, Nike's stock gained 2.6 percent on Tuesday to close at $88 on the New York Stock Exchange. On Tuesday, Donald Blair, Nike's chief financial officer, reiterated Nike's stated financial objectives going forward, including high-single-digit revenue growth, midteen earnings per share growth and continued gross margin expansion.

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