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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Nike Campaign Targets Women

NEW YORK -- For Ruth Blatt, there's nothing better than having clothes that can do double duty.

"I like doing yoga, training with my personal trainer and spinning," said Blatt, a mother, doctoral candidate and fitness buff, in a recent visit to a fitness studio, Vie Fitness and Spa, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

But Blatt, 31, likes to combine those workouts with seeing her friends or working at her local coffee shop. And she does not always want to change her clothes. "I don't want to be seen wearing an old torn sweatshirt that should be out of circulation. I want to look nice."

For Nike, consumers like Blatt are at the core of a new organizational, product and marketing strategy aimed at finding ways to capture the women's sports market after years of failures. The company has started mailing catalogs for its female apparel line, called Nikewomen, to some 600,000 residences.

On Thursday, the company will open a Nikewomen store in Westchester County, its eighth in the United States, and is planning to start four more in the United States by the middle of 2006.

Stores are planned to open outside the United States as well.

"Few people today, especially women, look at fitness and sports as this regimented portion of their life. Women see working out as melding into the rest of their lives," said Darcy Winslow, a longtime company executive who was recently named general manager for women's fitness sports at Nike. "We used to look at the gym through one lens."

Nike is not alone in this venture to win over women. Adidas Salomon recently signed up the fashion designer Stella McCartney, and Reebok has signed the actress Christina Ricci to be a model for them.

In the last five years, Nike has slowly overhauled the way it looks at the women's market. For example, it was not until 2000 that the company made women's shoes using molds made from women's feet. Then it began adding more fashionable colors and designs to its apparel, tracking fashion trends to determine what colors and styles are going to be popular.

"Certainly, it has to look fabulous, but it also has to have a performance capability," said Mindy Grossman, vice president of global apparel.

The Nikewomen line also arises from the growing importance of apparel to Nike's business.

For the fiscal year that ended May 31, 2004, sales of apparel -- for both men and women -- increased 6 percent in the United States, to $1.4 billion, while footwear sales rose only 2 percent, to $3.07 billion, according to company reports.

Nike is now stretching the traditional boundaries of what it considers sports and fitness. Earlier this year, Nike teamed up with Jamie King, a choreographer who has worked with Madonna, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez, and the gym Crunch Fitness to offer a new workout called the Rockstar.

"I was flattered that they were taking dance seriously, that they see it as just as physical and demanding as any sport," King said. The workout features dance moves that King says you could easily take from the gym to the nightclub.

In Ann Arbor, one of Blatt's fitness colleagues says she thinks some workout clothes are too good for the gym.

"I'd rather wear them out than for working out," said Anne Cabot, 29. "I'm happy to sweat in a T-shirt and shorts, but for being out I like the comfort of my workout clothes."