Hitting mailboxes of active woman across the country last week was the premiere edition of the Activa catalog, which boasts the tagline, "Active Gear for Powerful Women." Activa is a venture of Road Runner Sports, the San Diego, Calif.-based, retailer known primarily for footwear, apparel and accessories for the "core" runner.
Noting the growing importance of women's influence and buying power in fitness, Road Runner Sports decided to jump into the market with Activa (www.activasports.com), which will put a combined emphasis on fashion and function, compared to 20-year-old Road Runner's primary emphasis on the technical gear needed for running and related activities.
"Activa will be both technical and fashion," Road Runner President Bill Ness told SNEWS.
"Because women want both," added Debra Christle, Activa brand manager, who pointed to the common practice by women to dabble more in various activities from yoga class to working out on an elliptical or going for a run or a walk, then stopping at the store or running errands when they're done.
The first catalog was shipped to nearly 300,000 active women consumers culled not only from the Road Runner database but also from other "active female titles," Ness said.
"It's an active demographic instead of an economic demographic," he added.
The catalog, a showcase for the website that has a larger selection of products, is a mere 32 pages, but the next one -- scheduled for May -- will already jump to 48 pages. Eight mailings are planned this year. Statistics cited by Activa point to a growth in spending in the women's category between 1998 and 2001 of 12 percent, reaching $15.5 billion, with projections for that growth to continue. In comparison, spending in the men's market decreased 8 percent.
"We don't believe the market is being tapped," Ness said. "It's a huge market out there."
At this point, Activa carries name brands, such as Sugoi, Asics, adidas and New Balance, as well as large selections from companies such as Nike, Champion and Saucony that have a large cachet with women. Also represented are Shebeest and The North Face. An additional brand already slated to appear as of May is Prana, known for its climbing and yoga wear. The website, done in softer purples and blues than Road Runner's brick and yellow, carries a larger selection of accessories such as strollers, heart monitors, gloves and watches than the print catalog. About half of Activa offerings will be items that are not available from Road Runner, Ness said.
In addition, Activa also sells Road Runner Sports' private label RRS but an Activa label is planned, he said.
In addition, the company plans partnerships that will give the consumer more of a reason to choose Activa for her purchases, and will also set up alliances with causes, such as breast cancer funding, to help support a cause.
SNEWS View: We've been hearing about and seeing a growing emphasis on the women's fitness, outdoor and sports consumer for a number of years as companies begin to dabble in more gender-specific product. But the growth has become exponential with more of late jumping on to tap into not only the shopping and buying power of women, but also the demands for better fit and fashion. Even though the product is mostly available elsewhere, if the company can succeed in establishing an emotional tie and tap into causes near to the hearts of women, it will have a leg up on its road to success.