New Balance Picks Up Vital Apparel Group-Why is that important?

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New Balance picked up Vital Apparel Group, a company that was doing licensing for New Balance for over a year. The jewel in this is Insport, which is owned by Vital and was aquired by them about 18 months ago.

Why would New Balance bring on such a company with its own apparel group? Well....

apparel is a very tough business. Right now, Nike, Sugoi, ASICS and Saucony are doing quite well in the specialty running channel. New Balance got into apparel late in the game and has had some challenges. How does one keep up with fashion and function?

All of the brands have had some challenges with apparel. At this time, Nike has the best team in apparel for running. I have seen three of their presentations over the past 18 months and, in my opinion, the product is very wired in. Sugoi, under the direction of Stan Mavis, apparel deity, has produced some great product, very high end, which is especially appreciated by women runners and serious endurance sport male athletes. ASICS, under David Chandler, formerly one of the spirits behind Hind in the golden days, has put together a very technical line that is well received.

Here is why I think New Balance made a huge move with Vital--Insport is getting back into specialty with better product and product that is being accepted by retailers. For several years, Insport was on a downswing, after having been the king of specialty running store apparel and also, team apparel. From 1992 to 2004, Insport first battled Hind, which fell apart in the late nineties for team.

Insports' growth in team, like HInd before it, was due to Jan Johnson. Jan, the bronze medalist from 1972 in the pole vault, has a keen eye for the team business. Speaking at clinics across the country, and showcasing Hind, Jan grew the business to nearly six million a year. When Hind went on the downswing and Jan left HInd, he headed to
Insport, and grew Insport for nearly a decade. His leaving Insport to pursue his coaching and Pole Vault camps, and Insport lost that personal touch in team apparel.

Hind team is now licensed by Mike Viano at First to the Finish and has grown back to be a real player, probably the number one team brand the past several years. Insport, with its basic cuts, and ability to provide fill ins for teams-most team apparel lasts three years, and a third is replaced every year--but the deal is this-1.4 million track and cross country prepsters need team uniforms for the 32 days a year they race ( 11 in fall, 21 in spring).

What do they wear the other 211 days a year that they train? That is key. Team apparel is key to reaching the young consumer and showing them your brand. If New Balance does this right, Insport will be a very profitable way to reach the young team consumer and showcase New Balance footwear as well!

So, Kudos to NB on ressurecting Insport, a brand with great tradition and very definite legs to reach a younger consumer.


The complete release follows:

Industry News: New Balance Acquires Vital Apparel
December 10, 2007
From press release.

BOSTON, MA (December 10, 2007) - New Balance announced today that it has acquired the Vital Apparel Group, one of the leading active apparel companies in the United States, based in New York.

"Our acquisition of Vital gives us significant opportunities to accelerate the growth of New Balance apparel," says Rob DeMartini, CEO at New Balance. "We take our responsibility to drive category growth for our retailer's athletic apparel business very seriously. The New Balance brand can drive incremental sales for our customers and Vital's leadership and expertise in the sporting goods channel complements both team's core competencies in product innovation and customer service."

"The Vital team is excited to have the opportunity to apply our capabilities and experience to help grow New Balance," says Kerry Kligerman, president of Vital. "New Balance is one of the strongest global brands in the athletic industry and has unlimited possibilities in apparel."

In June of this year, Vital signed an apparel license licensee agreement with New Balance-owned Warrior to design and develop Warrior branded apparel as well as introduce new and innovative materials and designs.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Huntington Station, NY, Vital Apparel Group includes Vital Apparel, a leading women's active brand; Vital Accessories, which includes the license for Soffe Accessories; and the Vital Performance division which includes InSport. Vital Apparel Group is owned and operated by Chris Rosen and Kerry Kligerman.

New Balance, headquartered in Boston, MA has the following mission: Demonstrating responsible leadership, we build global brands that athletes are proud to wear, associates are proud to create and communities are proud to host. New Balance employs more than 2,800 people around the globe, and in 2006 reported worldwide sales of $1.55 billion. For more information please visit http://www.newbalance.com.

For the complete reference, please check:
http://www.american-trackandfield.com/news/
industrynewsDec07newbalance.html

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