Byline: James Fallon

OSLO--Adidas is finally getting serious about women.
The German company last week launched a women's fitness category here called Workout that will spearhead a stepped-up effort across all its women's products beginning in January.
Workout was launched here to tie in with the first in a series of five women's road races being sponsored by Adidas this year--a 5-kilometer run here last Saturday named for the great Norwegian runner Grete Waitz.
Adidas hopes its new intensity will triple its sales of women's products over the next three years to at least 15 percent of group revenues, which were $2.4 billion (3.29 billion German marks) in 1994. Women's apparel and footwear currently account for about 5 percent of sales.
"To be really relevant to women as a whole, we had to be in the fitness market," said Lisa Dolezal, the company's international business unit manager for Workout, which is based in Portland, Ore.
"Adidas has had women's products in the past, but was never really committed to them. Now we are," she added. "After all, women represent 50 percent of the market."
The new Workout line includes a 70-piece apparel collection split into three categories-- fitness basics such as bra tops, shorts, pants and high-cut briefs in cotton and Lycra spandex; 3 Stripes Classics, including HotPants, bicycle-length shorts, unitards, a sleeveless fitness dress and a short fitness skirt, and performance pieces in 3 Stripes and Supplex and polyester that are aimed at fitness instructors and serious enthusiasts.
All-purpose warmups, T-shirts and a boxing jacket and shorts round out the collection. There also are seven footwear styles retailing from $60 to $85. The rollout of the line will begin in January with products aimed at the strength and weight-training market and will occur in 60 markets simultaneously, said Mary Peveto, international marketing manager for women's products. Peveto is based at Adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany.
In late 1996, Adidas will add products for the dance and aerobics market. Design and marketing of the collection will be overseen by Adidas USA in Portland, with input from the company's European operations.
Adidas currently has some fitness apparel in its all-purpose collection, but has never aggressively marketed the line. Its fitness sales are expected to reach some $6 million this year in the U.S., Dolezal said. Adidas is projecting first-year worldwide sales of the Workout line of about $35 million to $40 million in apparel and a similar amount in footwear, she said. By 1997, however, the sales split should be about 70 percent footwear and 30 percent apparel, similar to the split at other brands.
The company believes Workout will boost all its women's products, which eventually could account for 30-35 percent of Adidas's total footwear sales and for the same percentage of apparel business.
It also is increasing its commitment to its other women's categories next year with the introduction of six competitive swimwear styles, a new Steffi Graf Ecliptic tennis line in black, white and silver and a new Multi-Systems Collection of running wear in Supplex and polyester. There also are new footwear styles for soccer, basketball, softball and walking.
"Once we communicate the Workout message, it gives relevance to the entire brand because it is a women-specific category," Peveto said. "What we are saying is that the woman who goes to the gym five days a week is a serious sportswoman. Previously, we stopped talking to her when she stepped out of the competitive arena, and our competition profited handsomely from that. But we still don't think the industry takes her seriously enough and the women we have surveyed realize that. They realize they are being treated like second-class citizens."
Adidas plans to launch a worldwide advertising campaign, focusing on print, which will communicate its new approach to the women's market. With slogans such as "Adidas: A woman's brand since 1932," the company aims to exploit the fact that it has produced footwear and apparel for women longer than any other athletics brand.
It began making products for women athletes when they were allowed to begin competing in the Olympic Games in 1928.
In addition to last Saturday's Grete Waitz run, an event that attracted more than 53,000 participants, other races in the series are scheduled for Berlin, Bern, Dublin and London.
"We have had women's products since 1932, but didn't have a focused attitude on what was half of the total business," Peveto said. "Our aim as a company is to be the top athletics brand in the world, and we can't do that without a strong women's business. This isn't just something we want to do; we have to do it. The opportunities on that side of the business are phenomenal, and we've finally realized that."
--Fairchild News Service

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