By  on July 5, 2007

Prince Sports Inc., best known for its rackets and hard goods, is taking its activewear in-house for spring to make apparel a corporate focus.

"Prince is all about helping frequent players get the most out of their game," said Linda Glassel, the company's vice president of marketing and communications. "We've done that in other areas of tennis — think about our 03 rackets — and now we are introducing performance apparel with an advanced fabric and construction system to help players look and perform their best on court."

The firm is introducing Aerotech, which combines three elements: "aerofit" (a technical cut), "aeroshield" (to protect from UV rays and be antibacterial) and "aerovent" (to provide temperature and moisture control). The three combined in a single garment create "aeroextreme."

In the past, Prince outsourced apparel to Sport Casual and it had been far less technical, according to Glassel.

"Prince has been involved in apparel for many, many years, but we had used an outside supplier to do the design and production of our apparel, and being the tennis brand we are, it just wasn't working," Glassel said. "We weren't getting the designs, fabrics and forward thinking we wanted, and we knew it was time to go back in-house. As a company, Prince is about performance technology, and our clothing should be as well."

The line is also offering three collections based on fit: Gold (athletic fit), Silver (relaxed fit) and Black (classic fit).

Aerotech wholesales from $15 to $30.

With the launch of Aerotech, Prince is strengthening its commitment to apparel, which is still a small part of its business. In the next five years the company wants to grow U.S. apparel sales to $10 million. Globally, Prince does about $20 million wholesale in apparel, including distributor sales. As a company, not including distributor sales, Prince expects to surpass $100 million in wholesale revenues in 2007.

"It is a strong growth objective to build the apparel business, as well as footwear," said Glassel. "Prince has a double-digit share in specialty stores in the U.S. for rackets, but we only have single digits in apparel, so the growth opportunities are significant, if we have the right silhouettes and fabrics."In the U.S., more than 1,500 doors carry Prince hard goods, and Glassel hopes that 50 to 70 percent of them — those that carry apparel — will buy the line, which will first ship for January delivery.

"Our dealers want Prince in their shops, the brand is so strong at retail," Glassel said. "This line targets a frequent player, and we are in all of the places that target frequent players. At same time, we will be also be opening up new doors, because we haven't had product at this level before."

Prince is officially introducing the line at a party July 13 at Lotus Space in New York.

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