DANCE FASHIONS: WORKING TOWARD THE LEAD POSITION

Byline: Georgia Lee

ATLANTA — Tolbert Yilmaz, president of Dance Fashions Super Store, set out two years ago to become a category killer — the Toys ‘R’ Us of dance and fitness.
“In department or sporting goods stores, dance and fitness is often an afterthought, or an under-the-counter business,” he said. “Here, we have the space and selection to make it our main focus.”
Located in Roswell, a northern suburb of Atlanta, Dance Fashions opened in 1980 and expanded from 2,400 to 10,000 square feet in 1994. With 55 percent apparel and 45 percent shoes, the store carries over 100 lines, including bestsellers Danskin, Bloch, Mirella, Baryshnikov and Capezio.
The store has posted sales of just under $1 million in 1995, a 15 percent increase over 1994, with $1 million projected for 1996.
Yilmaz — in partnership with wife Nancy Yilmaz, a former ballerina with the Southern Ballet of Atlanta — is also president of Eurotard, a dance and activewear line that posted sales of $5 million in 1995. The fashion-forward line, which is made in Atlanta and through Morganton, N.C., contractors, accounts for 20 percent of apparel sales at the store. The couple also owns the 10,000-square-foot Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance, also in Roswell.
Each business complements the other, said Yilmaz.
“Manufacturing helps us understand retail and vice versa,” he said. “We have to know fiber, fabric and construction. Product knowledge and our expertise is the most important thing in establishing customer loyalty.”
The freestanding unit is a destination store, with virtually no walk-in traffic.
“Ninety-nine percent of our customers come in with a special need, and come in to buy,” said Yilmaz. “They’re concerned with performance, fashion and the latest product developments.”
Dancewear makes up half of all apparel. Basic black and pink looks, have been augmented with more earth tones and fashion colors, such as hunter green and burgundy, as well as open-back silhouettes.
“Dance was all basic 10 years ago,” said Yilmaz. “Now, dancers have become much more creative in what they wear to class.”
Children’s wear makes up half of all dance apparel, and includes cheerleading, gymnastics, ice skating and other costumes. Best-selling lines are Danskin, Baryshnikov, Eurotard and Capezio, often in children’s versions of adult styles, or frilly styles with lace, bows, attached skirts, and other embellishments.
Despite the store’s primary focus on dance, fitness apparel is the fastest growing category.
“Fitness has opened up a whole new area,” said Yilmaz, who added that the category is ever-changing. “Five years ago, women wanted many different leotards,” he said. “Now they want bras, leggings, boxer shorts, T-shirts and oversized tops to mix and match.”
Separates and streetwear looks have been important trends.
Push-up bras from Eurotard are the store’s bestselling item, in a variety of basic and fashion fabrics, including lace and cotton velvet. Over 2,500 units have sold this year, at prices averaging $24-$30.
Prices range from $18-$30 for bras, $20-$38 for leotards, and $15-$40 for tights, an average of 10 percent less than department stores, said Yilmaz. But unlike other category killers, Dance Fashions Super Store does not promote itself as a discounter.
“People come here for quality and selection, not price,” he said.

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