Victoria's Secret Tests New VSX Sport Concept

Retailing is gaga for yoga.

Retailing is gaga for yoga.

The latest chain to get into the act is Limited Brands, which, through its Victoria's Secret division, is testing a collection called VSX. One freestanding VSX store, of about 2,000 square feet, is operating in the Easton Town Center near Columbus, Ohio, and the merchandise also is selling in 30 Victoria's Secret stores nationwide.

The lifestyle center, developed by Leslie H. Wexner, Limited's founder, chairman and chief executive officer, is an incubator for the corporation's new concepts.

The VSX store makes the association to Victoria's Secret, but does it discreetly in smaller lettering on the awning. The name is reminiscent of Ralph Lauren's active label, called RLX.

After selling off its Express and Limited stores women's businesses last year, both of which were challenging but are being overhauled under new ownership, there's an opportunity for Limited Brands to reconsider a sportswear alternative. Doing it in a smaller box is also a good option in comparison with the often oversize women's stores with which Limited, Gap, Old Navy and other chains have been saddled.

At a time when most women's sportswear retailers and brands are suffering, stores are searching for growth in the active arena, with yogawear particularly promising. What's particularly appealing about sport- and yoga-related merchandise is its multipurpose character. Women wear the clothes as casualwear and loungewear as well as for exercise.

VSX sells sport bras, athletic pants, yoga pants, T-shirts and other merchandise.

"Most suburban mothers wear the stuff all day," said one specialty store executive. The best-selling products, he added, incorporate technical performance fabrics, comfort and a sexy look.

Lululemon, the fast-growing chain that originated in Vancouver 10 years ago, has inspired others to jump on the yoga bandwagon, though Lululemon products are more expensive than VSX.

Other fashion retailers that have stretched into the active-yoga category include Bebe Sport; Abercrombie & Fitch, through its Gilly Hicks division that launched last fall, and, most recently, J. Crew, which about a month ago starting selling a yoga collection online and at its store in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. J. Crew is considering putting its yoga merchandise in other stores and will include yoga in fall catalogues. Active brands also have expanded into the category, including Nike, Adidas and Under Armour. Even Walgreens is in on the act with its new Casual Apparel line that includes yoga pants as well as T-shirts, hoodies, quilted vests and socks.

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