Paiva moves into women's specialty sports/fitness retail arena

Grabbing onto the specialty women's trend, sporting goods retailer Finish Line has unveiled its first Paiva store for active women, with 15 planned by the end of the year.
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Grabbing onto the specialty women's trend, sporting goods retailer Finish Line has unveiled its first Paiva store for active women, with 15 planned by the end of the year.Â

An upscale chain targeting women ages 25-40 who exercise frequently, Paiva ("pie-vah") opened its first door on April 14 in Barton Creek Square in Austin, Texas. By June, four more should open, including in Natick Mall, Boston, Mass.; Westfield Mall, Annapolis, Md.; Mall of America, Minneapolis, Minn.; and Bellevue Square, Seattle, Wash.

"Paiva," Jeff Pofsky, Finish Line vice president and general merchandise manager for the new chain, told SNEWS®, "will be an athletic-fashion boutique for the active, trend-conscious woman."

Owner of the brand, Finish Line (Nasdaq: FINL), a purely athletic retailer, plans to not stop at 15, but has the goal to reach 200 nationwide locations within five years of its spin-off Paiva chain, or about a third of its current 600 Finish Line locations.

The store's name hails from a Scandinavian sun deity and means "of the light." Indeed, light and fitness have something in common: Both are sources of energy and strength -- the main principles behind the mall-based venture, which will feature trendy products grounded in conditioning and has the motto, "Energy from within."

Pofsky says light "is the primary element in the store design, helping to create a clean, soothing environment." The website, www.paiva.com, is done in a soft gray and turquoise, with curved and flowing lines, while the Finish Line site definitely attempts to be more unisex, with navy and stronger blues and sharper edges.

The 4,000-square-foot Paiva stores will be as bright, airy and feminine as the website. In addition to bamboo floors and soft, natural colors, they will feature wider, stroller-compatible fitting rooms and mobile walls that slide along tracks. These modular dividers allow floor managers to change the layout according to trends and season. For instance, once running season begins, the walls may be shifted to expand the running collection and tighten the swimming section.

"If you look at who is selling women's soft goods, it's department stores, sporting goods stores, boutiques and catalogs," Elise Hasbrook, Finish Line's spokesperson, told SNEWS®. "Paiva offers consumers the opportunity to shop a variety of brands that include apparel, accessories and footwear…making it easy for women to put together head-to-toe outfits that can be worn for working out, running to the grocery store or having coffee with friends."

General fitness apparel for Pilates, running, dance and yoga, and garb for seasonal sports like swimming and tennis, will make up 60 percent of the inventory. Footwear will be 30 percent of the store, and 10 percent will be designated to small hard goods, such as sunglasses, MP3 players, watches, fitness bags, yoga accessories and water bottles.

Larger hard goods, however, aren't on the menu. While Paiva will offer small miscellaneous fitness items like yoga mats and weighted balls for home gyms, women seeking steppers, bikes or home gyms will still have to look elsewhere.

"We will not be selling large hard goods as we chose to focus on dressing," Pofsky said.

Accessories at this time will come from GoFit, Speedo, Sigg, Nike, Tune Belt and Yogitoes, for example. Apparel and footwear brands include adidas by Stella McCartney, Fila, Asics, Christy Turlington's Nualla line for Puma, Y3, Prana, OMgirl, Saucony, Speedo, Tsuvo and Pazzo.

"Our products cater to a woman's fitness and lifestyle needs," Pofsky said, "and will allow women to find energy within our stores and energy within themselves."

SNEWS® View: We think that this is just the beginning of a trend to cater more specialty stores selling sports and an active lifestyle, such as for running, fitness and outdoor, to smaller market segments, with the women's market being, of course, the largest one with the most potential. Sure, women can shop at Finish Line, The Sports Authority or any specialty fitness shop, but being able to feel more at home where the store and its staff are welcoming and totally understand your needs and tastes can draw customers and, of course, increase sales. Although Paiva has elected to stick mostly to soft goods with just a dash of hard goods in small accessories, we also believe there is a market for a specialty fitness store -- or sub-chain, as Paiva is for Finish Line -- that caters strictly to women. We've seen it in outdoor and there's no reason why fitness can't do the same. It's clear women purchase or highly influence buying decisions in about eight of 10 cases. Why not make the environment, colors, staff and equipment selection just what they want? We are waiting for either a leading fitness retailer to see this potential and jump into it OR for someone who realizes no one is filling the niche to charge into it.

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