By  on June 20, 2007

LAS VEGAS — Women's athletic apparel seeks to be more stylish for spring 2008, with exhibitors at the SGMA Spring Market last week featuring running skirts and dresses in feminine colors and silhouettes.

The SGMA Spring Market, which the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association launched June 11 to 13 at the Sands Expo & Convention Center here, replaced the Super Show that closed for the last time in January in Orlando, Fla. The new show is targeted to reach small and medium-size retailers, but the majors also attended, including The Sports Authority, Dick's Sporting Goods, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Chick's, City Sports and Modell's.

Tom Cove, president and chief executive officer of SGMA, said the new show is more balanced than the Super Show, which was about 50 percent licensed product. SGMA Spring Market is more equally distributed among apparel, footwear, team sports, equipment and licensed product.

Cove said the show had a "good mix" of key big brands and smaller ones: Asics America, Under Armour, Russell Athletic, Mizuno USA, Everlast Worldwide and New Balance. Nike and Adidas didn't participate.

SGMA and the Team Athletic Goods buying group, which held its own annual summer buying event here, had a total of about 350 exhibitors. "We're happy with the support and the number of large brands here," Cove said. "[This show] is all about getting the retailers here. We're going to build value one step at a time and listen to what comes out of this show. We want to make it a valuable business proposition to retailers and, for that, you have to provide good quality education with conferences as well as networking opportunities."

Steve Battista, vice president of brand marketing for Under Armour, said the industry needs a good gathering place. "We had five of the top 10 [sporting goods] retailers in here on the first day," he said.

Doug Kelly, president of Russell Athletic, liked the timing, noting Russell was just releasing its spring 2008 line. "We really don't have an opportunity, other than small dealer shows, to be in front of our customers in force," Kelly said. "This is a chance to rejuvenate the show and have all your executives together. You can see your large accounts regularly, but not the smaller and medium accounts."Seth Horowitz, chairman, president and ceo of Everlast Worldwide, said he was glad to be able to exhibit the company's full line, but added that the spring 2008 lifestyle apparel line will be launched at MAGIC in August.

Tom Raynor, ceo of Fleet Feet, said the industry needs a show and called SGMA Spring Market "a great lifestyle show."

David Macharelli, owner of The Locker Room Sports in Naugatuck, Conn., said he was disappointed there weren't more exhibitors and retailers. "I'd like to see more of the top vendors become more involved," he said.

The latest apparel trends at SGMA Spring Market showed that performance and lifestyle apparel are getting more stylish, as consumers choose items that can be worn for more than one activity, whether for trail or road running, tennis, spinning or Pilates. Women's apparel has more feminine colors, such as pinks, berries and light blues, and better fits.

Asics America has hired a specialist to improve the fit for both everyday and casual runners. Annette Garcia, assistant product manager apparel, said women want longer tops. Asics didn't have skirts, but showed low rider short-shorts, tank tops with built-in bras and tracksuits for yoga or casual use.

New Balance is focusing on bamboo and Cocona, a natural technology that utilizes charcoal (or activated carbon) derived from coconut shells, that's combined with polyester to create clothes with performance properties such as evaporative cooling, odor resistance and added UV protection, for fall 2007, and on seamless and seamless body-mapped apparel for spring 2008. The company, which has had skirts, introduced a running dress and a flair skirt for spring. The running dress can cross into other areas, such as tennis. New Balance also added apparel to its NBZip footwear collection. Women's includes Modal fabrics, feminine fun tops and a tracksuit with an oversize hood.

Russell Athletic is focusing on performance apparel, licensed products and women's wear. The company showed stylish product that included more pastels in women's and vintage logos. Women's wear has been delivering double-digit sales increases, especially in performance because of new fabrics, Kelly said. For example, Russell showed a capri-style pant in a jersey knit. Russell also introduced Fusion Fleece for women and men.Mizuno featured tops with MP3 player pockets, anti-abrasion labels, running skirts and fabrics with moisture management and sun protection. Janice Bashore, director of marketing, athletic apparel, said running skirts are a phenomenon. Colors for women include coral and blue, and the company has a new running collection that includes a pink compression top. Mizuno also has added proprietary technologies — DryScience for spring 2008 and Breath Thermo for fall 2008. Mizuno has natural-based fabrics in development.

Next year's SGMA Spring Market will take place from June 9 to 11 at the Sands Expo.

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