Women's Athletic Apparel Book Bounds Forward

After starting last year as a postcard mailer for sports bras, a women's athletic apparel catalog continues its evolution this spring with more pages, expanded merchandise and a new name.

Road Runner Sports, San Diego, mails Activa on March 31 to 350,000 recipients. That's up from the 340,000 copies mailed in November, when the book was called My Sportbra. The original postcard mailing last spring went to fewer than 100,000 women.

“About two-thirds of the names will come from our house file while the others are prospects,” said Tim Hoerrner, RRS director of circulation. “We're tapping into an assortment of women's apparel databases and other active-apparel merchandisers for prospects.”

This month's book has 32 pages, up from 24 in November. A catalog expected to mail in May will have 48.

“We believe it will meet or exceed expectations as long as there is not a long war,” Hoerrner said.

Road Runner expects Activa's debut to achieve a 2 percent response and an average order of $100. The November catalog's average order was $96. Activa's typical customer will resemble the RRS house file: ages 25 to 50 with an average annual household income above $75,000.

The March drop contains 114 SKUs, rising to 140 in May. The total was 90 for My Sportbra's November mailing.

Activa brand manager Debra Christle said jackets and outerwear will be added in the fall. The book's average price point will be $42.39.

The book will differ from the company's flagship catalog, which focuses on running shoes and apparel for men and women. Activa will feature products designed for women who participate in other athletics, including aerobics and yoga. Products will include athletic shoes, shirts, shorts, hats, sport bras, socks and accessories.

“We wanted something specially designed for women with a bigger and broader selection of merchandise, including apparel accessories and footwear,” Christle said. “[My Sportbra] was a big success with our customers, and women were asking for more.

“The visual appeal and layout [of Activa are] designed to appeal more to a woman. There are more lifestyle shots.”

Women's sports apparel spending rose 12 percent from 1998 to 2001, the company said, as men's sports apparel spending fell 8 percent. Also, more than $15.5 billion was spent nationwide on women's sports apparel in 2001, and the women's segment is estimated to grow $310 million annually.

Eight Activa catalogs will be produced through the rest of the year, including two clearance books. The company mails 16 RRS catalogs annually, and with the Activa mailings, companywide circulation will be 20 million this year.

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