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Sporting Goods Industry Cashes In On Fitness Craze

September 21, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ The national mania for pursuits such as jogging, swimming, cycling and dancing is ensuring fitness in the sporting goods industry, which is responding with products such as computerized running shoes.

″Aerobics, physical fitness - it’s the hottest thing in the industry,″ says John Zwahlen, national sales manager for Everlast Sporting Goods Mfg. Co. Inc. of New York, best known for its line of boxing equipment.

Everlast is among companies showing off the latest fashions, equipment and accessories for the athletically inclined at the National Sporting Goods Association International Convention and Show at McCormick Place.

The fitness craze is uppermost on the marketing minds of the 50,000 sporting-goods manufacturers, distributors and retailers expected to attend the four-day convention, which began Friday.

Women who work out, a growing consumer group, are the target of many of the wares being displayed at the 1,300 exhibits.

″We’ve always had a women’s line, but in the last five or six years, we’ve really stepped up,″ said Dick Frederichsen, vice president of marketing for Wigwam, a footwear manufacturer.

″We have low cuts (socks) for running, or for aerobics, leg warmers,″ he said. ″We have more than 50 colors for women alone.″

Everlast is pushing soft-cushion ankle and wrist weights for women to wear while doing aerobics or running, aerobic exercise wheels and aerobic hand weights resembling miniature barbells, Zwahlen said.

Folks sweating off calories on the jogging path or at aerobics class will have a variety of shoes to choose from - including futuristic footwear.

Adidas U.S.A. has $110 computerized shoes for runners.

″The runner punches his weight and stride into the shoe,″ said an Adidas spokesman. ″There’s a little computer device that will feed back the distance, time, average speed and calories burned.″

Puma is promoting a $198 model, the RS Computer Shoe, which a jogger can hook up to a personal computer at the end of a run. The device can be switched from a wornout shoe to a new one.

For those who want the glow of good health with less work, Solaire SunSystems of Dallas will display its line of tanning beds. The company recently sold its line to Kwik Wash Laundries, so customers can get bronzed while their clothes get clean.

Besides the exhibits, the show will feature fashion shows, a camping site with live fish in a pond, a beer garden and free seminars to help retailers push the sporting life.

Among those expected to give personal pitches for fitness products are Patrick Ewing, the Georgetown University All-America center who just signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the New York Knicks, and tennis pro Ivan Lendl.

The sporting goods association is an international group representing 18,000 sporting-goods retailers and 2,300 manufacturers and agents.

The show is closed to the public.

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