If anything, the already booming activewear market is about to make even more noise. In a spot check with sporting goods outlets and specialty retailers around the country, merchants say that compared to last year the business has doubled in six key categories: women’s cotton T-shirts with high-tech graphics; dual-purpose stretch bodywear items like bodysuits and crop tops that can be worn with sportswear; footless leggings; rugged outdoor apparel; performance swimwear and sportswear-related cover-ups of cotton knit or fleece that double as weekend wear. Gains of more than 10 percent are expected through fall. Here, a look at what’s selling at some of the country’s hottest active/athletic wear outlets.

OSHMAN’S, Houston, Tx.
KEY CATEGORIES Outdoor apparel and cross-training.
KEY BRANDS Outdoor apparel: Down To Earth, Grammici, Royal Robbins. Cross-training: Marika and private label.
KEY ITEMS Canvas or twill shorts ($16); T-shirts with environmental messages ($17); bra tops ($16); tank tops ($10 and $12) and nylon or cotton jersey running shorts ($10 and $12.)
KEY COLORS Solid neutrals, sage and rose in outdoor apparel and solid gray, navy, black, white and denim blue in cross-training apparel.
KEY FABRICS Cotton knit and blends of Lycra spandex with cotton or nylon.

COMMENTS “We’ve had the fastest growth in rugged outdoor apparel because women buy it for the function and the look,” says Joan Charles, women’s apparel buyer for Oshman’s 140 units. “In cross-training, there’s no uniform anymore — women like to mix items of cotton and Lycra and nylon and Lycra.”

SPORTMART, Niles, Ill.
KEY CATEGORY Cross-training.
KEY BRANDS Tinley, Nike, Reebok, Hind, Dolfin.
KEY ITEMS Running shorts ($18); leggings ($20); and cycling shorts and bra tops ($20) each.
KEY COLORS Black and brights in solids and geometric prints.
KEY FABRICS Blends of Lycra spandex with CoolMax or Supplex; and nylon blend microfibers.

COMMENTS “We’ve had a 150 percent sales increase in cross-training over a year ago,” says Pat Kent, senior buyer of women’s apparel for SportMart’s 43 locations. “Manufac-turers are now addressing that category with colors and styling specifically targeted for women.”

GAZELLE SPORTS, Kalamazoo, Mich.
KEY CATEGORY Dual-purpose activewear.
KEY BRANDS Adidas, Hind, Nike, Reebok, Umbro, Champion, EcoSport, Oh Boy, Fresh Produce, Gravity Graphics and San Francisco City Lights.
KEY ITEMS Bra tops ($29); bike pants ($24-$35); unitards ($24-$60); footless leggings ($22-$35); T-shirts ($18-$20); fleece tops ($16-$35) and coordinating pull-on pants ($22-$35).
KEY COLORS Solid natural tones, as well as washed out mid-tones, especially shades of teal, mustard, purple and pink.
KEY FABRICS Blends of Lycra spandex with cotton, nylon or Supplex.

COMMENTS “Activewear is a huge growth area for us, especially active sport looks that are worn as weekend wear,” says Leslee Kilbourne, buyer of women’s apparel for Gazelle Sports’ three-store chain. “I think it’s safe to say we’ve doubled our business in dual-purpose activewear looks, and we should do a huge business in the fall.”

HERMAN’S, Carteret, NJ
KEY CATEGORY Performance swimwear.
KEY BRAND Speedo by Authentic Fitness.
KEY ITEMS One-piece Y-back tank suits ($30-$40).
KEY COLORS Black and navy solids and prints.
KEY FABRICS Nylon and Lycra spandex.

COMMENTS John Hoeffler, buyer of women’s activewear for Herman’s 97 units, singles out women’s performance swimwear as the women’s apparel category generating “very significant double-digit growth over the past year.”

SEARS ROEBUCK & CO., Chicago, Ill.
KEY CATEGORY Two-piece activewear sets.
KEY VENDORS Marcy & Me, Sweet Blondie and Katelyn Rose.
KEY ITEMS Two-piece short sets ($24); coordinating pants and tops ($26-$28).
KEY COLORS Taupe, tan, cadet blue and whitened mid-tone brights in coral, periwinkle and jade.
KEY FABRIC Cotton knit.

COMMENTS “Cotton knits have been the number one selling classification in activewear this year,” a spokeswoman says.

BACKSTAGE INC., Little Rock, Ark.
KEY CATEGORY Aerobicwear.
KEY VENDORS Carushka, Eurotard, and Maxi Moda.
KEY ITEMS Bra tops ($29); thong-back leotards ($32); woven cotton boxers ($20) and bike pants ($20).
KEY COLORS Black and brights in solids and geometric prints.
KEY FABRIC Cotton and Lycra spandex.

COMMENTS “Even though we sell activewear, aerobicwear still is our number one selling category, especially looks that have a crossover appeal and a look of fashion,” says Teresa Clark, owner of the specialty bodywear and activewear store. “Bra tops have had the biggest sales increase of over 10 percent over last year.”


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