NEW YORK - Activewear appears to be getting a good workout at The Gap.The chain moved into bodywear late last year when it began testing key items such as bike shorts and crop tops under the Gap Workout label. Early this year, it began distributing another private label program of activewear under the Gap Athletic and Gap Workout labels.Although executives at Gap headquarters in San Francisco did not respond to queries about its activewear business, a broad assortment of goods seen in various units of the chain indicate that The Gap is putting some muscle into this merchandising expansion. It's a move, though, that according to Gap employees, is being tried only in the larger stores of the approximately 900-unit chain.The activewear is merchandised separately as men's and women's apparel, but the items -- oversized hooded sweatshirts and coordinating drawstring pants of cotton and polyester, nylon warmup suits and textured cotton knit tops and shorts -- have a strong uni-sex appeal. The men's and women's lines are in the same colors -- black, white, gray, navy and canary.Retail prices for the women's activewear start at $18.50 each for honeycomb-pattern cotton knit tops and coordinating shorts, and go to $42 for nylon pull-on pants and $58 for a matching zip-front jacket.Salespeople in Gap stores here expressed enthusiasm about the activewear, claiming it was selling well, although some of the bodywear had run into the mark-down pencil."The activewear items are very popular - I've even bought something - but the bodywear isn't doing as well,' said a sales associate at a Gap unit at Broadway and West 34th Street here.Another sales associate, at the unit at Lexington Avenue and East 77th Street, said the bodywear pieces that were not selling well were the more traditional-looking items - floral print leotards, bike shorts and crop tops in brightened pastels - that "look like real exercise wear."Among the traditional bodywear pieces on the markdown rack were a crop top and a bike short of cotton and Lycra spandex. Both items were marked down to $9.99 from $28.The salesperson said, however, that ready-to-wear-looking prints such as white leaves on a black ground, or solid black and gray, were getting a better response. Those items of Supplex nylon and Lycra retail from $24 for a crop top, and $26 and $28, for a bike short and leotard, respectively.In Chicago, Gap salespeople were also giving the move a thumbs up."It's a way of expanding our market, just like we did with shoes," said a salesperson at a Gap unit on Michigan Avenue. Footwear was recently introduced at some Gap stores.Another Gap employee in Chicago noted he works in a smaller unit that doesn't carry the activewear, but customers often come in asking about it.
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