Byline: ROSEMARY FEITELBERG
So much for getting out there and actually doing it -- shopping, that is. Judging from the double- and triple-digit increases reported by catalogers large and small, more and more consumers are skipping the mall crawl in favor of ordering from the comfort of their own homes.
Although the company declined to give specific numbers, activewear sales are emphatically up at Downers Grove, Ill.-based Spiegel. According to Ann Van Thournout, women's activewear buyer, the company offers 45 items that retail between $15 and $69. Van Thournout says black is still the key color, but teal and purple are also popular. Key catalog items include $24 cotton/Lycra crop tops, $24 cotton/ Lycra bike shorts and $19 cotton T-shirts.
Having increased sales by 257 percent in the past year, Arena North America, an Englewood, Col.-based swimwear and active-wear manufacturer, expects this year's sales to double, according to Doug Powell, marketing manager. Cross-training apparel was introduced in this year's edition and catalog requests doubled in the past year. Best sellers include a $30 nylon/Lycra bra top, $27 nylon running shorts and a $66 polyester/Lycra triathalon bodysuit.
Sales for Arena's two bra tops are expected to reach $1 million.
Serious athletes, especially cyclists, are big fans of Bike Nashbar, the Youngstown, Ohio-based activewear and cycling gear manufacturer. The company has boosted its women's merchandise offerings by 15 percent this year, raising the total number of items to 35. Senior buyer Kathy Keller notes that the introduction of apparel in extra-large sizes has contributed to this year's 28 percent increase in sales. Key items include $20 black Lycra cycling shorts with colored panels, $20 sleeveless polyester shirts with a zippered neck, elasticized waist and three rear pockets, and $33 baggy nylon shorts with drawstrings.
Looking to boost its activewear business, Nautilus Apparel will introduce its first consumer catalog in January. "People have been asking me for 15 years to do a catalog," says David Erwin, the firm's design director. "It's the only means of reaching people who call from next to nowhere."
Thirty bodywear and activewear pieces, priced from $15 to $80, will be featured in the new catalog, including the nylon and Lycra cropped pants with built-in knee pads, which are the company's hottest item.