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NEW YORK — They probably won’t make anybody faster or stronger, and there’s no cardiovascular advantage, but fall activewear has plenty of new toys to entice consumers.
This story first appeared in the September 26, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Customized Kevlar backpacks, a watch with an MP3 player and even terry cloth wristbands imprinted with suggestive sayings are among the accessories the sporty set is talking about.
Clearly First, a Madison Avenue boutique, is seeing interest in its customized Boblbee backpacks, which retail for $165 to $200. By using the store’s design-your-own center, shoppers check out their creations on a flat-screen computer, choosing accessories and 55 different colors for the item’s buckles, shells and frames. The process takes anywhere from eight to 15 minutes, said Cecilia Hirshorn, vice president of marketing for Clearly First.
Some women are being creative, selecting a variety of colors for their Kevlar packs, such as those in the American or Swedish flags, and others plan to update their shades with the changing seasons, she said. Aside from a Las Vegas store, this is the only location in the U.S. where shoppers can buy the customized version of this futuristic-looking carryall.
Additional gear can be bought for the sport version to store a soccer ball, or carry a skateboard or a bike helmet. There are also compartments for a yoga mat, gym clothes, a water bottle and other essentials for $25 to $55 more per item. With its S-shaped ergonomic design and ventilated harness, the pack is supposed to distribute the weight of its contents more evenly, reducing pressure on the wearer’s back. Boblbee’s founder Jonas Blanking, an avid outdoorsman, developed Boblbee Sport for “high-adrenaline, sport-crazy people.”
Next month, Timex launches the TMX2 MP3 player, a watch that stores up to two hours of music and is PC and Mac compatible, at Radio Shack and a handful of small retailers. The $150, two-inch device can be clipped to a belt loop, a freestanding pod, a neck chain or a wrist strap.
It also is capable of holding all types of computer files, including JPEGs, and Word and Excel documents that can then be downloaded onto a computer, a Timex spokesman said. The item is aimed at people who are more stylish than traditional Timex customers, he added.
At Equinox, gym goers are being innovative with their fall purchases at the chain’s Energywear stores. Many female shoppers are buying $22 tune belts to stash their keys and cash while working out, even though the item is designed for a Walkman or MP3 player, said Fran Errico, national buyer.
“A lot of people are wearing them on the street,” she said.
To secure other valuables, they’re opting for MasterLock’s $8, do-it-yourself combination locks to replace the standard ones, which cost about $2 less. Instead of using a predetermined combination, users create their own four-digit number, which can match their PIN and voicemail access numbers. Sales of the make-your-own version took off a few months ago, after word spread about a Web site that detailed how to pick a regular combination lock, Errico said.
In another area, even though summer has set, Energywear shoppers are still buying Reef flip-flops. From April through August, the store sold $40,000 worth of the items, she said. They retail for $10 to $25.
Speedo expects its new “blocket” swim trunks with a waterproof pocket to be popular with women, even though they’re designed for men. The pockets are large enough to hold a cell phone and wallet, are sealed shut like a Ziploc bag and attach to the shorts with a bungee cord.
Surfers at San Diego’s Mission Beach prompted the company to come up with the idea. Mike Nicklas, senior vice president of sales, said he went there specifically to find out what surfers thought would sell, and shorts with waterproof pockets topped their list.
“The guys on the beach said, ‘Yeah, dude, that would sell,’” Nicklas said.
The new Adidas Originals store in Soho is seeing lively sales of accessories. A $60 bucket hat, a $14 visor, an $18 beanie cap, a $60 sports bag, a $140 weekend bag and an $80 CD bag are fall must-haves.
At The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, an East Village store popular with the area’s fashion-conscious crowd, there is such demand for $20 terry cloth wristbands with sewn-in watch faces that store owner Judi Rosen wouldn’t say where she gets them.
Clubbies are also picking up gym bags stamped with a gymnast’s silhouette to wear out at night, Rosen said.