PRINCETON, EQUINOX JOIN GAME

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — It might have gone unnoticed in the wake of last Friday’s highly ballyhooed opening of NikeTown here, but Princeton Ski Shop and Equinox Sport also dove into Manhattan’s sporting goods arena last weekend.
Princeton opened an 18,000-square-foot store on Friday at 21 East 22nd Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South. Equinox unveiled a 7,000-square-foot store on Saturday at 441 Columbus Avenue at West 81st Street — the former site of Charivari Workshop.
Unlike NikeTown and other major sporting goods chains in Manhattan, the two newcomers offer performance-oriented products from lesser-known labels. Both stores aim to carve a niche by catering to snowboarders, skiers, in-line skaters and skateboarders.
Executives at Equinox and Princeton said their confidence is bolstered by a booming activewear industry — especially snowboarding.
“We felt that the Manhattan market wasn’t being adequately served,” said Richard Carp, general manager for Princeton Ski Shop.
Based in Elmsford, N.Y., Princeton has not operated a store in Manhattan since the mid-Eighties, when it leased a 3,500-square-foot store at 379 Fifth Avenue.
Princeton expects its new store to become its most profitable unit within the next 24 months, Carp said. The retailer also operates a 25,000-square-foot store in Clifton, N.J., as well as two comparable-size units in New York State, in Elmsford and Roslyn.
Equinox Sport is an offshoot of Equinox, a health club operation with five units in New York, including four in Manhattan. First-year projected retail volume for Equinox Sport is $5 million, said Dan Errico, who handles financial operations for Equinox. Errico and four of his siblings — Terri, Fran, Lavinia and Vito — own the store and the Equinox health clubs.
Last weekend shoppers were out in force at Manhattan’s three newest sporting goods stores.
More than 10,000 of them visited NikeTown on Friday and another 12,500 people were there Saturday, a spokeswoman said. There were times when people had to wait 10 minutes just to get inside.
Princeton and Equinox also had substantial store traffic, executives said. About 2,000 shoppers visited Equinox on Saturday and 3,000 turned out at Princeton on Friday, store officials said.
Retailers declined to reveal first-day volume, but they did cite key items.
Last weekend’s bestsellers for women’s apparel at NikeTown were DriFIT tights at $45, DriFIT shorts at $45 and a bra top at $22.
In its first three days of business, Princeton Ski Shop sold 300 units of Medalist’s cotton blend turtleneck at $12.95, 250 Terranmar silk long-sleeved tops at $24.95 and 300 Head polyester-filled parkas at $40, but which generally retail for $200, Carp said.
The retailer also sold 10 units of Skea’s $700 UltraSuede zip-front anorak, he noted.
At Equinox Sport, bestsellers for women’s apparel included Norma Kamali leggings at $125, a Fire and Ice polyester fleece jacket at $140 and an Equinox Energywear cotton sweatshirt at $50.
NikeTown offers 130,000 apparel items on hangers and 350 sku’s of footwear. At Princeton’s new store, there are 600 sku’s of apparel and 75 sku’s of footwear. Equinox Sport offers 300 sku’s of apparel and 60 sku’s of footwear.
As for average retail prices, NikeTown weighs in at $30 for apparel and $50 for footwear; Princeton at $100 for apparel and $90 for footwear, and Equinox Sport’s at $55 for apparel and $70 for footwear.
Women are expected to account for 50 percent of the sales at NikeTown and Princeton Ski Shop, company officials said. Equinox Sports expects women to make up 40 percent of the store’s business, Errico said.
Princeton offers apparel from 60 vendors, including skiwear from Skea, CB, Obermeyer and Columbia, snowboard apparel from Burton, Sessions, Swag and Prom, and activewear from Bellweather, Bike and AirWalk.
For spring, Princeton will offer tenniswear, running apparel, golfwear and surfwear from such resources as Nike, Bogner, Fila and Ellesse.
Equinox is heavy on high tech looks and light on big brand names. Unlike most athletic-oriented stores, Equinox does not offer any products from Nike or Reebok.
PearIzumi, Burton, Fire And Ice, Norma Kamali, Mossimo and Verso are among Equinox’s key apparel vendors. Equinox Energywear, a 12-piece private label activewear collection, is also available.
Following the advice of last weekend’s shoppers, Equinox plans to offer golfwear and tenniswear for spring, Errico said.
The company aims to focus on informative services such as in-store cycling clinics, snowboarding trips and in-line skating lessons, he said. On the sidewalk near the store’s entrance Sunday, employees offered passersby — many of whom participated in the New York City Marathon earlier that day — stretching tips and massages.
“That’s our idea of interactive — not some sort of computer screen you touch. We want to interact on a more physical and personal basis,” he said. “We want people to approach a salesperson with an activity in mind, as opposed to a brand name.”

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