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Warmups: Basically Nike

When it comes to activewear, forget high fashion. What women want are no-frills styles in basic black or gray.<BR><BR>That's the message from the sales floor of Nike Town, where standard-issue shorts, bra tops and unitards in those two colors account...

When it comes to activewear, forget high fashion. What women want are no-frills styles in basic black or gray.

That’s the message from the sales floor of Nike Town, where standard-issue shorts, bra tops and unitards in those two colors account for about 70 percent of sales of the top 10 apparel styles, according to Kurt Smallwood, apparel merchandise manager in Nike’s flagship Chicago store.

Basics also outsell the brighter, fashion-forward print lines at the other Nike Town stores, in Portland, Ore., Atlanta and Orange County, Calif., according to Melissa Balsiger, retail buyer for women’s apparel.

The typical Nike Town customer — contrary to the “Just Do It” image portrayed in Nike’s advertising campaign — isn’t a hard-core athlete, Balsiger said. “She’s willing to spend money on fitness, but she wants to be very practical. She will spend on the basics — like shorts and an oversized T-shirt — and build from there.”

In an average week, the stores sell about 25 fitness shorts in the top two colors at $30, and between 25 and 35 T-shirts at $18, Balsiger said. She estimated that women’s apparel accounts for about 8 percent of overall Nike retail business. Nike does not release sales figures for its stores.