By  on March 2, 1994

NEW YORK -- Health clubs and gyms here are actively moving into activewear.

The Manhattan Yellow Pages list more than 200 clubs and gyms. As these facilities sought to establish their own identity, selling signature T-shirts became common practice. Several clubs, however, are now going a lot further by selling a wide range of activewear, some carrying their own private labels, and some have set up their own pro shops within or near their workout facilities.

Crunch has been one of the most active fitness clubs on the apparel front. It has developed a growing line of private label activewear through its own contracting and via three licensees.

Crunch has three Manhattan locations -- two downtown and one on the Upper West Side. Each has its own pro shop. The clubs are currently being renovated at a total cost of $105,000, according to Doug Levine, and when the redos are completed by the end of May, each pro shop will have 1,000 square feet.

With membership at 15,000 and growing, pro shop sales are expected to reach at least $900,000 this year, which would be a 35 percent increase from last year, Levine said. With wholesale prices ranging from $20 to $59, Crunch T-shirts, oversized mesh shorts, hooded sweatshirts and baseball hats are some of the most popular items in the store. The pro shop also carries Nike and Avia to round out the Crunch selections, Levine said.

In addition to increasing the product line by 20 percent, Levine said the merchandise should be available in 30 department and specialty stores by the end of this year. A budget of $150,000 has been planned for TV ads for the East Coast and the West Coast for Crunch apparel later this year, he said.

Looking at the economics of retailing via pro shops, Levine pointed out that two of the Crunch clubs cost less than $20 per square foot to lease; some sporting good stores in the city pay close to $200 per square foot.

"By having shops in our clubs, we're already paying for electricity and heating. Someone is always wearing something that says Crunch on it, and we have a captive audience. If you're riding a bicycle what else are you going to look at?"

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