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Pro Looks Still Sitting on the Bench

NEW YORK -- The growing field of performance wear is playing only a minor role in department store bodywear areas.<BR><BR>While the category might be getting a play in activewear areas or in-store shops dedicated to a particular resource, such as Nike...

NEW YORK — The growing field of performance wear is playing only a minor role in department store bodywear areas.

While the category might be getting a play in activewear areas or in-store shops dedicated to a particular resource, such as Nike or Reebok, bodywear merchandisers at three key department store operations say they are not attempting to attract dedicated athletes to their departments.

Rather, their target customer is the woman who goes to a gym or dance class for casual workouts or simply likes the clothes because of their look. Bodywear inventories might include some high-tech fabrics and the special construction features — such as padding in knees and elbows — associated with performance wear, but the items do not get a lot of spotlighting.

“All our bodywear is merchandised to have a look of streetwear,” said Karen Failes-Coad, senior bodywear buyer for the department store division of Dayton Hudson Corp. “We have no specific signage for performance wear, and we leave it up to the merchandise managers to segment it the way they want.”

The bodywear areas carry some performance wear labels, with Nike being the main one, Failes-Coad noted. But the business in performance wear within the department is modest, she indicated.

Robin Satty, divisional merchandise manager of fashion accessories, bodywear, and other areas at Macy’s East, noted that Body Perfect, the bodywear department at Macy’s Herald Square, is divided into two themes: “true workoutwear” and streetwear looks.

Key vendors that fit both concepts include City Lights, the licensed LA Gear line by Jacques Moret, and three lines by Weekend Exercise — Aerodynamics, Marika and the licensed Baryshnikov label, Satty said.

Although some of these lines include Supplex and Lycra spandex blends, which are commonly used in performance wear, the items are not played up as performance wear. The department had tried pushing true performance wear a couple of years ago, but was unsuccessful, Satty said.

“We don’t cater to the serious athlete, and we carry lines that are not meant for hard-core performance,” said Barbara McDonald, bodywear buyer at Burdines, Miami. “We carry Danskin, but we don’t sell Danskin Pro.”