NEW YORK — Victoria’s Secret is extending its reach from the boudoir to the gym.
The company will launch Sexy Sport, a comprehensive sports bra and activewear collection, in all its 1,200 stores on May 16. While the brand has had a selection of activewear in its catalogues and online, this will be the first time it will sell sports bras and activewear in its stores.
“The style of the activewear is very modern and fashionable,” said Kristina Bokariza-Martin, vice president of merchandising for Victoria’s Secret Stores. “Women will find pieces that they can wear for just about every activity.”
She declined to break out sales projections, but sources suggested this category would become a multimillion-dollar business for the firm. Victoria’s Secret, a division of Limited Brands, had a sales increase of 5 percent, to $4.45 billion, in 2005, while operating profit in the division increased 11 percent, to $886 million, according to data from Harris Nesbitt Research. The company doesn’t break out sales of the division.
Sexy Sport will also be sold online and in the catalogs, representing the company’s commitment to growing this category of the business.
The athletic collection includes eight sports bra styles, as well as yoga pants, sport shorts, tennis apparel and dancewear, in fabrics such as Supplex, Lycra spandex and Coolmax. There are products for tennis, yoga, dance, cycling and general fitness. Bokariza-Martin said the bra and sportswear collection was developed after two years of research and development.
The bras are designed for all levels of athletic activity, some offering more support than others, Bokariza-Martin said. An in-store grid will help customers find the right support level.
“Clients come to Victoria’s Secret for all their bra needs,” Bokariza-Martin noted. “Until now, we’ve had every bra possible, except sports bras. Our goal is to create a sports bra category for Victoria’s Secret and become the destination for sports bra shoppers. We now offer clients one place to take care of all their bra needs.”
She noted that while many sports bras on the market flatten women’s breasts, the VS collection is designed to take into account both a women’s cup size and the sport impact level so that the bra has a better fit.
Sexy Sport comes in bright and bold purple, canary yellow and orange, as well as blue, gray and white. The sports bras retail for $35 to $45; while the activewear will sell for $25 to $70.
The move is part of the company’s plan to target new areas for growth. The VS Pink division, launched two years ago and targeting a younger customer, already has sales of about $500 million. Beauty has also been a key focus lately at Victoria’s Secret, which is the Limited’s largest brand.
Bokariza-Martin said the stores are not eliminating any categories to make room for Sexy Sport.
“This is definitely a long-range growth category for us,” she added.
The company is embarking on a significant marketing campaign for Sexy Sport including signage in the front store windows of all the stores, as well as advertisements in a number of June magazines and direct mail.
Other firms are also pushing hard into the sports bra arena. Nike unveiled a comprehensive new innerwear system that will begin hitting stores this summer. Under Armour also launched a bra offering this spring that has been a sales driver, the company said last month.
Hanes is the market leader in sports bras, and the category last year had sales of $358 million, according to the NPD Group, the research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y.