Byline: KARYN MONGET
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."