NEW LINES ENTER THE COMPETITION
Byline: Rosemarie Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Two new players in the activewear market — XOXO Sport and Pay Attention — will be competing, but on different fields.
XOXO Sport is a streetwear-influenced line aimed at fashion-forward juniors. It will make its retail debut in June.
Pay Attention will launch an outdoors-oriented sportswear collection geared to sophisticated women. The line, which bows at retail early next year, will carry the Bertram Mann label.
XOXO Sport is a 20-piece activewear line aimed at department stores and specialty stores. It is being produced by Pacific Alliance, which also makes XOXO sportswear, said Barbara Tichner, president of women’s wear for Pacific Alliance.
First-year projected wholesale volume is at least $5 million.
At wholesale prices ranging from $12 for a T-shirt to $35 for a jacket, the collection has hooded jackets, skirts, tank dresses, halters, shorts, breakaway pants and board shorts. XOXO Sport should be available initially at 20 department stores and 10 specialty stores, Tichner said.
“The launch is going to be small and focused,” she said. “Business is tough out there. It’s difficult for stores — especially department stores — to launch a new brand.”
When retail sales are soft, stores tend not to take any risks, said Haim Dabah, chief executive officer of Pacific Alliance.
“They keep looking at the rear view mirror. That’s very common, unfortunately,” he said. “You have to be looking forward.”
Dabah aims to merchandise XOXO Sport independently in junior sportswear departments or activewear departments. It has not been determined if the label will be offered to sporting goods stores.
“For this product to make an impact, it needs to have dedicated racks. It can’t be thrown in the mix,” Dabah said. “Consumers need to see it grouped together to understand it. They need to know the store believes in it.”
On Wednesday, XOXO plans to open a 3,500-square-foot showroom at 1466 Broadway for its sport and denim lines. The company’s main showroom is located down the hall from the new site.
To appeal to fashion-forward consumers, XOXO Sport plans to advertise in such edgy magazines as Paper and Vibe in December. The company will follow up a few months later with advertising in more mainstream magazines. Laspata Decaro Studio, a New York agency, designed the campaign, which features Alek Wek posing with a surfboard or a soccer ball.
Pay Attention takes a different approach.
Two veterans in the activewear business, Dianne Bertram and Gibson Mann, teamed up to start the company, an apparel wholesale and mail-order business that produces goods under the Bertram Mann label. Based in Point Richmond, Calif., the company opened a 500-square-foot store there Friday.
Bertram and Mann were instrumental in the launch of Smith & Hawken’s apparel line. Mann also designed apparel for The North Face, and Bertram designed fly fishing apparel for Orvis. They will continue to work as design consultants for Sierra Designs.
Mann, a certified white-water-rafting river guide, said he understands the importance of durable and innovative fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily.
“We make versatile things beyond something people might use for running, hiking or biking,” Mann said. “We don’t want you to look like you’ve been running, hiking or riding your bike.”
After testing its wool, acrylic and polyester fleece alpine shirts and accessories at retail this fall, Pay Attention will introduce a 20-piece outdoors-inspired sportswear line for spring.
This year’s wholesale and retail volume should exceed $250,000, Bertram said. Earlier this month, the company advertised its $49 slippers in The New Yorker. Mann said he intentionally did not list a toll-free number in the ad because he wants to attract serious customers, not catalog collectors.
In February, the company will send direct-mail pieces to 75,000 consumers. Women’s apparel, men’s apparel and accessories will be offered. In August, Pay Attention plans to introduce a catalog that will be shipped to 400,000 consumers.
Wholesale prices for the women’s line range from $20 for a sleeveless cotton polo shirt to $60 for nylon, polyester and Lycra spandex pants. Pants, wrap skirts, crewneck shirts, jackets and bandeaus are in the line.
For 1998, Pay Attention expects to generate $1.5 million in sales. That figure is expected to be broken down to $250,000 for wholesale volume, $1 million for mail-order sales and $250,000 at its own store.
To accommodate its expanded offerings this spring, Pay Attention plans to double its space from 500 square feet to 1,000.
Pay Attention’s corporate philosophy is incorporated in its logo, which says, choses utiles — French for “useful things.” The idea is to buy fewer high-quality staples, Mann said.
The company aims to give customers added value. Shirts are merchandised in a muslin bag that also can be used for laundry or as a gym bag.
“We want people to pay attention to the way they’re living without being pretentious about it,” he said. “We’re marketing against the trends. Everything in this country has gotten cheaper as it applies to the masses.”
“We’re pleased with the quality and the concept,” said Jill Toney, buyer for The Gardner, a 3,000-square-foot specialty store in Berkeley, Calif. “The line is comfortable, well made and in fun colors.”