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Speedos Soars Ahead

NEW YORK -- The plan to open a fleet of Speedo swimwear and activewear shops is moving ahead at full speed, putting the growing network of activewear and swimwear stores on target for projected sales of between $80 million and $100 million for...

NEW YORK — The plan to open a fleet of Speedo swimwear and activewear shops is moving ahead at full speed, putting the growing network of activewear and swimwear stores on target for projected sales of between $80 million and $100 million for 1995.

So says Linda J. Wachner, chairman and chief executive officer of Authentic Fitness Corp., owner of the Speedo stores and the Speedo brand name.

Wachner’s aggressive strategy is to build a national retail chain, as well as to be a wholesaler of Speedo active sports apparel. So far, there are 43 Speedo shops in the U.S. Seven more are scheduled to open by the end of fiscal 1995.

The momentum picked up here on Oct. 31, when a Speedo unit was opened at the World Trade Center. Sales per square foot are estimated at $600 and first-year sales are projected at $1 million, Wachner said.

Two more Speedo shops were opened the day after Thanksgiving: one unit in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and another here at Third Avenue and 65th Street. Each unit is expected to generate first-year sales of $1 million, she said.

“We are doing an amazing job,” said Wachner a couple of weeks ago, as she was overseeing the finishing touches of yet another Speedo unit, this one at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 58th Street. “We have opened a store every day in the U.S. for the past 30 days.”

The unit on Lexington Avenue, which opened Nov. 17, is projected to generate sales of $2 million the first year, said Wachner. She said the 3,100-square-foot duplex store is the largest Speedo unit in the U.S., and has become the brand’s new flagship. The unit is expected to generate sales-per-square-foot of more than $600.

Until now, the year-old unit at 90 Park Ave. here has been the Speedo flagship. The 1,050-square-foot shop generates sales per square foot of about $1,000.

“The Park Avenue unit was really a working showroom,” said Wachner, noting that Authentic Fitness offices and showrooms here are also at 90 Park Ave., in the office building over the store.

Two additional units are slated for openings here this month: one at the corner of 57th Street and Madison Avenue, and a second at 61st Street, between First and Second Avenues.

Wachner pointed out that the new Speedo flagship on Lexington Avenue features a wider assortment of women’s, men’s and children’s activewear than is offered at any other unit, as well as more accessories for water sports, such as Speedo goggles and elasticized pool shoes with rubberized bottoms by Surf Walker.

Wachner would not give volume figures for the newly opened units here, but said sales were “above expectations.”

Outerwear items that have a unisex appeal are among the top sellers, she said. The key looks include a long anorak with a zip-out polar-fleece lining, retailing for $169; brushed cotton jackets for $119; reversible polar-fleece-lined Micromattique jackets for $89, and fleece pullovers for $45 and $54.

“There was a great demand for jackets in the men’s line in smaller sizes that women could wear,” said Wachner. “There are a lot of women who wear those looks, and they’re becoming more popular.”

Another hot idea is a sueded Tactel nylon and Lycra spandex legging that is merchandised and sold to women and men. The leggings retail for $35.

Beth Ravit, president of the Authentic Fitness retail division, noted that store hours have been expanded from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays at the Lexington Avenue location because traffic has been “very heavy.”